FALL RIVER — Two retired Fall River priests have been suspended following allegations of sexual abuse spanning several decades. The Diocese of Fall River revealed that Fathers James F Buckley and Edward J Byington were suspended on Sunday after an internal investigation revealed separate and unrelated claims of sexual abuse alleged to have occurred several decades ago. The suspensions are an automatic result of official Diocesan investigative protocol, requiring both internal and law enforcement review. Both priests have denied the charges.

“Nothing is more important than the welfare of all members of our diocesan community, especially anyone who has been harmed or impacted by abuse in any way,” said Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.  “The Diocese of Fall River remains committed to resolving these matters in as fair and as transparent a process as possible and to ensure the safety of all youth and vulnerable adults.”

While both priests retired over ten years ago and are not currently assigned to any parish, both Buckley and Byington have subsequently volunteered in civic and community activities since. Byington, who most recently taught German language classes at St Joseph’s school in Warwick, RI, was also suspended by the Diocese of Providence following the review.

According to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, whose 2001 prosecution of the Archdiocese of Boston resulted in the film Spotlght, Byington allegedly assaulted a 16-year-old unidentified male during a weekend retreat for Christian teenagers on Cape Cod in 2009. The case had been investigated by the Diocese but ultimately denied due to the lack of corroborating witnesses. Other claims of abuse against Bickley and Byington have yet to be specified.

“The Catholic Church has shown time and again that it cannot self adequately self-investigate,” said Garabedian in a statement.

The suspensions are just two in over 200 allegations of sexual abuse that have plagued the Diocese since the 1980s, including the recent suspensions of Fathers Richard Deagne and Daniel Lacroix pending an active investigation into misconduct.

Among the parishes Byington served between 1970 and 2006 included St John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro, St Patrick Parish in Fall River, Sacred Heart and St Paul Parish in Taunton, St George Parish in Westport, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Seekonk, St Francis of Xavier Parish in Hyannis and St Thomas More Parish in Somerset.

Buckley, who was ordained in 1959 and retired in 2001was previously assigned to both St  Mary’s Cathedral and Sacred Heart Parish in Fall River, Immaculate Conception Parish in North Easton, St Joan of Arc Parish in Orleans, St Augustine Parish in Vineyard Haven, St Margaret Parish in Buzzards Bay and Holy Redeemer Parish in Chatham.

As part of an ongoing effort to address abuse allegations, the district recently hired licensed social worker Carolyn Shipp as part of a victim outreach and assistance program. Anyone with information that they wish to raise regarding the conduct of any past or present member of the Diocese is encouraged to contact Shipp at (508) 985-6508 or [email protected].

Image via Wikimedia Commons