FALL RIVER — Two priests in the Diocese of Fall River have been placed on administrative leave following allegations of misconduct stemming back several decades, according to an official statement from the Diocese released over the weekend.

Richard E. Degagne of Immaculate Conception Parish in Easton and Daniel W. Lacroix of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Bedford have been placed on leave pending an active investigation from the Diocese as well as the Bristol County district attorney’s office.

The investigation stems from information found during an external review of the Diocese’s priest personnel files. The Diocese had indicated the alleged misconduct occurred several decades prior, with the allegations against Degagne being initiated prior to his ordination as priest.

“Nothing is more important than the welfare of survivors, children and our community at-large,” said Bishop Edgar da Cunha, of the Diocese. “We have pledged to handle all matters of abuse in a pastoral and professional way and have implemented many new reforms since 2017. I continue to pray for anyone who has been affected by the scourge of sexual abuse.”

While the nature of the allegations have yet to be revealed, the dismissal of Degagne and Lacroix would not be the first time the Diocese has faced a scandal as a result of allegations against its clergy. The district played a pivotal role in a landmark settlement in the early 1990s after more than 100 complaints were lodged against former priest James M. Porter, inspiring the 2015 film Spotlight. Porter died in 2005 of natural causes after completing an 11 year prison sentence.

To date, over 200 allegations have been lodged against the district since the 1980s, resulting in financial settlements in excess of $16 million. Most recently, Father Bruce Neylon of Holy Trinity Church in Fall River was removed earlier in May after credible allegations of misconduct revealed sexual abuse of an underage parishoner several decades prior.

The allegations have prompted the Diocese to compile a dossier on clergy in the district accused of misconduct against minors pending internal reviews. The list is scheduled to be published in 2020.

“While most of these names have already been reported in the media, the publication of a list is necessary for greater transparency on our part in response to clerical sexual abuse,” wrote de Cunha. “I wish that this information could be made available sooner; yet it takes time and diligence to compile a list that is accurate and complete.”

Both Degagne and Lacroix have denied the alleged misconduct. The Bristol County district attorney’s office is encouraging anyone with information or concerns they wish to raise to contact them at (508) 821-4028 or to contact the diocese directly at (508) 985-6508.

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