By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – Father Thomas Gillespie, pastor of St. Theresa’s Church, was put on administrative leave Sunday by the Archdiocese of Boston after the archdiocese received an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.
The allegation concerns conduct alleged to have occurred in the late 1970’s and was recently reported to the Archdiocese, according to a statement issued by Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese.
When the Archdiocese received the complaint, church officials immediately notified law enforcement of the allegation and initiated a preliminary investigation into the complaint, Donilon said. Father Gillespie will remain on administrative leave without any public ministry pending the outcome of the preliminary investigation.
“The decision to place Father Gillespie on administrative leave represents the Archdiocese’s commitment to the welfare of all parties and does not represent a determination of Father Gillespie’s guilt or innocence as it pertains to the allegation. The Archdiocese will work to resolve this case as expeditiously as possible and in a manner that is fair to all parties,” Donilon added.
Father Gillespie, 72, did not return a message left on his voice mail. He has been pastor of St. Theresa’s for 23 years.
Donald Henchey, a member of the St. Theresa’s Finance Council, said his reaction was “shock and disbelief” when he heard the allegation.
“I know Father very well and I can’t believe he would do anything improper unless he said so himself,” Henchey stated.
Henchey said he was shocked when he first heard the allegation and equally shocked when the statement was read in church on Sunday.
“I sympathize with anyone who has been molested or abused but I wonder why the allegation is being raised now after all these years.
“If it turns out the allegations are unsubstantiated, where does Father Gillespie go to get his reputation back?”
“Unfortunately, there have been so many cases of molestation, the Archdiocese has had to adopt this very strong protocol, and it is being followed,” he added.
Donilon said the Archdiocese will continue to make counseling and other services available to survivors, their families and parishes impacted by clergy sexual abuse and by allegations of abuse by members of the clergy. Cardinal Sean O’Malley encourages any person in need of pastoral assistance or support to contact the Archdiocese’s Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach.
Donilon’s statement said that since his installation, Cardinal Sean O’Malley has made it a priority to create safe environments in the Archdiocese’s churches and schools and to continue to support all people impacted by clergy sexual abuse. The policies and practices of the Archdiocese include working with law enforcement agencies and community professionals to report and investigate instances of sexual abuse, annually screening approximately 60,000 clergy, employees and volunteers and implementing effective prevention training programs. Additionally, through the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach, the Archdiocese continues to reach out to those who have been harmed by the “tragic reality of clergy sexual abuse” to proved pastoral help and counseling services to survivors and their families.