Jesuits: Former St. Bernard priest "credibly accused" of multiple sexual assaults

Two Jesuit priests who once served in southeastern Connecticut were included on a list of 50 Northeast priests who the Catholic religious order says are “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting minors since 1950.

Among those on the list released by the USA Northeast Jesuit Province on Tuesday was the late Rev. Francis J. McManus, who served at St. Bernard High School in Montville from 1982-83 and Saints Peter and Paul Church in Norwich from 1983-91. The list states McManus was accused of “multiple abuse” from 1974-85, some of which time he spent at St. Bernard and St. Peter and Paul. The incidents were reported from 2002-05. He died in 2015.

The Jesuits list does not offer any details about the sexual assaults McManus was accused of but said they were deemed “credible after investigation.” The allegations against him in Boston had been reported by the Boston Globe in 2002, but incidents during the time he served in Norwich and Montville were not publicly known before the release of the list on Tuesday.

The list states McManus also worked at churches and schools in Fall River, Mass., Milford, Kingsport, Kentucky, and Boston.

The Diocese of Norwich, which has said it will release a list of its accused priests later this month, did not respond Tuesday for a request for comment about McManus.

Also on the Jesuits' list was the late Rev. William Cullen, who was assigned to St. Thomas More School in Oakdale from 2000-05. The “abuse of minor” he is accused of occurred from 1995-96 when he was assigned to a school in Boston. The allegation was reported in 2016 and determined to be “credible after investigation.” Cullen died in 2010.

In releasing the list, the Rev. John J. Cecero, the provincial of the USA Northeast Province, wrote that "at the heart of this crisis is the painful, sinful and illegal harm done to children by those whom they should have been able to trust. We did not know any best practices to handle these violations many decades ago and regrettably made mistakes along the way. What winds up being a very shameful history for the Church at large was made clear by investigative reporting in Boston in 2002."

He added that since procedures were put in place shortly after by bishops to prevent such abuse, there have been no new cases in the Northeast Province among Jesuits.

"Changed practices do not erase past history," he added, explaining the list includes "any allegations where the offense was admitted by a Jesuit, or where it was established as credible after an investigation." Cecero wrote "any living Jesuit with a credible allegation of abuse is removed from ministry and assigned to a community that does not serve minors where he lives under a closely monitored safety plan."  

"On behalf of all of the Jesuits of the USA Northeast Province, I apologize for any of our brothers who have committed crimes of abuse and pledge to work to provide safe environments for all to whom we minister and to offer support and possibilities for healing to victims," he wrote, urging anyone who has experienced abuse by a Jesuit to contact Kristin Austin, the victim assistance coordinator at 443-370-6357 or UNEadvocacy@jesuits.org

j.wojtas@theday.com

 

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