FALL RIVER – The Diocese of Fall River today announced the suspension of retired priest Father Herbert T. Nichols for an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, alleged to have occurred approximately 20 years ago. The decision to suspend him was made based on information learned from a review of the personnel files of diocesan priests.
The allegation, which Father Nichols denies, is under investigation by the Diocese.
As a retired priest, he was not assigned to any parish but did help with the celebration of Masses in various parishes since retirement, including with the Maronite community within the Diocese. His suspension precludes him from all ministry until the investigation is completed and a determination on the matter is made.
Last year the Fall River Diocese hired an independent consultant to complete a comprehensive evaluation of its priestly personnel files, and Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., informed parishioners that a list of credibly accused clergy would follow. The Diocese suspended some priests in response to information gathered during the file evaluation pending further investigation, as required under its policies.
“The task of evaluating all of the files and the response needed on our part as a result of the findings have, regretfully, taken more time than first thought,” said Bishop da Cunha. “It is crucial that we take the time and perform the diligence necessary to compile a list that is accurate and complete, and we continue to do so.”
“I understand that these recent announcements regarding the suspensions of priests are upsetting to our diocesan community of faith and often bring renewed pain to victims of sexual abuse especially victims of sexual abuse by clergy,” added Bishop da Cunha. “I continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have suffered greatly.”
As part of ongoing efforts to improve its Office of Safe Environment, the Diocese recently hired Carolyn Shipp, a licensed social worker, to focus on pastoral outreach to victims/survivors. “As a social worker, I am here to listen to anyone with concerns and to connect survivors to the resources they need,” said Shipp.
Anyone with information that they wish to raise regarding the conduct of any past or present member of the Diocese, is encouraged to contact Carolyn Shipp, the Diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 508-985-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Father Herbert T. Nichols
Parish Assignments: St. Ann Parish, Raynham; St. Joseph Parish, Taunton; St. Mary Parish, Taunton; St. Anne Parish, Fall River; St. Joan of Arc Parish, Orleans; St. Anne Parish, Fall River; St. James Parish, New Bedford; Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, New Bedford; St. Anthony of Padua Parish, New Bedford; St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River; retirement 2015. Father Nichols also served in ministry in New York as a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal community.