The list is the result of a two-year review of sexual abuse allegations against priests associated with the diocese. The Massachusetts diocese first announced this review of sexual abuse allegations in 2019.
Update: In December 2021, the diocese added three more priests to its list of accused clergy members. Read more here >
Review Of Fall River Diocese’s Sexual Abuse Allegations
The Fall River Diocese’s list was released after a five-phase review process beginning in 2019. The review process involved former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Assistant Director William Gavin, Kinsale Management Consulting and a diocesan advisory team.
“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.”
Fall River Diocese Review Ends With List Of Accused Priests
In January 2021, the results of the review were released. The results were published in a list naming 75 clergy members affiliated with the diocese. These 75 clergy members have all been accused of child sexual abuse.
The Fall River Diocese’s list of 75 accused priests includes:
- 44 credibly accused Fall River Diocese priests
- 9 credibly accused clergy members of other religious orders or dioceses
- 3 clergy with allegations still under review
The list also includes 19 clergy members who served in the Fall River Dioceses and face unconfirmed abuse allegations outside of the diocese. Many of these clergy members were named in lists of accused priests released by other dioceses, religious orders or third parties. Despite including them on this list, the diocese did note it lacks “sufficient information at this time to make its own credibility determination.”
Since its founding in 1904, 650 priests have served the diocese. The 44 accused Fall River Diocesan priests account for about 7% of those priests. Twenty-eight of these priests are now deceased. The list did not name any current Fall River clergy members.
The list was accompanied by a letter from Bishop Da Cunha. In the letter, Da Cunha explained the review’s drawn-out timeline, calling it “crucial that we took the time needed to do it right.”
“As I pray for a spirit of healing and reconciliation, I know that we cannot move on without an honest accounting for the past. As your bishop, I am deeply and profoundly sorry for the abuse that was perpetrated by priests within this diocese and have recommitted myself to do everything in my power to ensure this never happens again.”
Fall River’s list is not the first of its kind. Many Catholic dioceses across the country have released similar lists, including two Kentucky dioceses in August 2020. These lists are a step in the right direction for abuse transparency and justice.
AbuseLawsuit.com has collected a list of clergy members accused of abuse across the United States. You can search this database by state, diocese or the name of the accused clergy member. Visit our nationwide database of accused clergy members here >
2021 | Three More Priests Added To Credibly Accused List
On December 15, 2021, the Diocese of Fall River announced the addition of three more priests to its list of credibly-accused clergy members.
Former priests Edward Byington, Richard Degagne and James Buckley are all accused of sexual abuse. In 2019, Degagne was suspended from his position as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Easton. In 2020, the diocese suspended Buckley and Byington following abuse accusations.
The three former priests face the following accusations:
- Two men accuse Byington of child sexual abuse.
- Two men accuse Degagne of child sexual abuse.
- Two women accuse Buckley of child sexual abuse.
All three accused priests have held positions at multiple churches in Massachusetts.
Fall River’s Long History With Clergy Sexual Abuse
The Fall River Diocese has dealt with sexual abuse scandals in the past. The review of sexual abuse within the diocese included combing through nearly 70 years of records, claims and allegations.
Sexual Abuse By Rev. James R. Porter
One of the most prominent names on the list was James R. Porter. His case is a notorious example of clergy sexual abuse.
Porter pled guilty in 1993 to molesting 28 children. However, the true count of victims may be much higher. Porter once told a television reporter that he molested as many as 100 children during the 1960s and 70s.
Porter was defrocked, convicted and sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. When he was due for release, survivors testified to the emotional and mental toll Porter’s abuse took on them.
Thomas Kulas, a survivor of Porter’s abuse, testified against him in court. He spoke to the role Porter’s abuse played in his addiction to heroin at age 16.
“I went straight to the darkness. You don’t know what it’s like to drag this baggage around with you. If I can spare one kid this baggage … I don’t know what my life would have been like had this not occurred.”
Porter was moved to a Department of Correction medical facility before his death in 2005.
Zero Tolerance Policy Instituted at Fall River Diocese
Following the news of James Porter’s abuse, the Fall River Diocese brought in now-Cardinal Sean O’Malley to head the diocese. O’Malley instituted a zero-tolerance policy toward any clergy member accused of sexual abuse.
During his time with the Fall River Diocese, O’Malley settled more than 100 sexual abuse cases. He remained with the diocese for many years. Today, he is one of the Pope’s foremost advisors on the issue of sexual abuse.
“There is no place in ministry for someone who harms a child and that has to be a line in the sand. That is something that is so important for all of us.”
List Provides Abuse Survivors With Opportunity for Justice And Healing
According to The Associated Press, in February 2019, more than 170 Catholic dioceses and religious orders had released lists of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse. Jim Scanlan, who survived sexual abuse during his time at Boston College High School, says these lists can offer some relief to survivors of priest abuse.
“I know, in my case, any time you see a list and see a name on there with someone who has raped or abused you, you say, ‘Oh my gosh I’m not the only one.’ Because most of your life you think, ‘I am I the only one that happened to [sic].’”
These lists may prompt survivors to come forward with their own experiences and seek legal justice.
The Associated Press. (2004, April 13). Victims testify of Porter assaults. Boston.com.
The Associated Press. (2005, February 11). Pedophile priest James Porter dies at 70. NBC News.
Cardinal Seán’s Blog. (N.D.) Cardinal Seán’s Profile.
Cooney, A. (2021, November 24). ‘I’m tired of waiting for justice’: Alleged clergy abuse victim wants action from diocese. The Herald News.
Cooney, A. (2021, December 15). Three more priests from Fall River diocese are now considered ‘credibly accused’ of abuse. The Herald News.
Diocese of Fall River. (2019, January 3). In Letter, Bishop Informs Parishioners of Review Underway for Eventual Publication of List of Credibly Accused Clergy.
Diocese of Fall River. (2021, January 7). Diocesan Response to the Sexual Abuse Crisis.
Diocese of Fall River. (2021, January 7). Diocese of Fall River Releases List of 75 Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse of Minors.
Dunlop, K. (2021, January 7). After two-year review, Fall River Diocese releases list of clergy credibly accused of abuse. The Standard-Times.
Lauer, C., Hoyer, M. (2020, February 6). States use Catholic clergy abuse lists to screen applicants. The Associated Press.
Mares, C. (2019, February 22). O’Malley defends ‘zero tolerance’ approach to abusive priests. Catholic News Agency.