Monday, June 21, 2010

Church removes Mattapan priest

Church removes Mattapan priest
Archdiocese cites ‘adult’ misconduct
By June Q. Wu, Globe Correspondent | June 21, 2010

A priest at St. Angela Merici Parish in Mattapan has been removed from service in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston following allegations of “adult sexual misconduct,’’ the archdiocese said yesterday.

The news followed the resignation Friday of the pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Haverhill over alleged financial improprieties.

The Rev. Gabriel Michel, who is from the Archdiocese of Cap-Haitien in Haiti, has worked in Boston since 2002, most recently as the assistant pastor at St. Angela’s and as a part-time chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital.


The Rev. William Joy, the pastor at St. Angela’s and St. Matthew Parish in Dorchester, said he first heard of the allegations against Michel on Friday.

“He was a good priest — people liked him,’’ Joy said. “He was very effective.’’

Joy said Michel responded well to the needs of the English- and Haitian Creole-speaking parishioners at St. Angela’s, which serves roughly 1,200 families.

“People are saddened and shocked,’’ Joy said.

Joy said he was not sure whether he will find an assistant pastor to replace Michel at this time.

The archdiocese said in a statement that it has notified the Most Rev. Louis Kebreau in Haiti of the allegations.

It was unclear whether the Archbishop of Cap-Haitien will place Michel on administrative leave, said Kelly Lynch, a spokeswoman for the Boston Archdiocese. The archdiocese has not contacted law enforcement officials, she said, as there is no criminal element to the allegations.

Lynch declined to comment on the circumstances of the alleged misconduct.

At St. John’s, the Rev. Keith LeBlanc will be replaced by the Rev. Paul Coughlin, who serves as pastor at the St. John the Baptist Parish in Peabody.

The archdiocese declined to release details of the allegations, citing an ongoing investigation, but said in a statement that it notified law enforcement officials. Haverhill police and Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office declined to comment yesterday.

In an interview at the church yesterday, Deacon Thomas Anthony, who said he has known LeBlanc for nine years, spoke highly of the priest’s work at the parish, which serves about 600 families.

“He was very easygoing, very laid-back,’’ Anthony said. “He encouraged a lot of people to get more involved.’’

According to Anthony, LeBlanc was responsible for renovating the church basement into a parish hall in 2006, financed through the sale of a 2.3-acre parcel of land behind the church to Merrimack Valley Hospital for $1.25 million. “It was a wreck before,’’ Anthony said.

Anthony declined to comment on the allegations.

Joann Corthell, a member of the pastoral council who said she has known LeBlanc since he arrived at St. John’s in 2003, affirmed her support for the pastor.

“He’s a great guy,’’ Corthell said. “He’s not just a pastor, but a friend.’’

According to a member of the pastoral council who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, LeBlanc revitalized the parish’s activities committee and introduced the St. John’s vacation Bible school, a weeklong summer camp for children.

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