FALL RIVER (December 13, 2021)  ̶  The Diocese of Fall River announced today that separate allegations of sexual abuse of a minor made against three suspended priests have been determined to be credible and that none would return to ministry.

Given these determinations, the names of Father James F. Buckley, Father Edward J. Byington, and Father Richard E. Degagne have been added to the list of “Credibly Accused” clergy on the Fall River Diocesan website.

The Diocese of Fall River previously announced the suspensions of all three priests. Father Degagne, then pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Easton, was suspended in 2019. Father Buckley and Father Byington were suspended in 2020. These two priests were already retired at the time and not assigned to a parish. All three priests have denied the allegations.

Before making any determination in these cases, the Diocese followed its protocols including notifying civil authorities, conducting its own investigations, and bringing the cases to the Ministerial Review Board. The Ministerial Review Board serves as an independent and consultative body to advise the bishop on alleged misconduct by clergy.

After reviewing all of the facts and receiving the recommendations of the Ministerial Review Board in each case, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V, has determined that the allegations are credible and has informed all three priests that they would not be returning to ministry. They are not permitted to exercise any public ministry including the celebration of public Mass or of other sacraments. They may not provide spiritual direction, may not wear clerical attire, or present themselves as priests. The three priests have been removed from the “Cases in Process” category within the sexual abuse response section of the diocesan website and added to the “Credibly Accused” category.

Fall River Diocesan policies state that an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is determined to be credible when it has a “semblance of truth” under canon law, using a standard of proof approximating probable cause, and when it conforms to the definition of sexual abuse of a minor as outlined in those policies. In the case of a credible finding, both Diocesan policies and the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People require that an offending cleric be prohibited from ministry and his faculties withdrawn.

“My prayers remain with any and all who have suffered sexual abuse by clergy, especially as a minor,” said Bishop da Cunha. “Their pain is real and long-lasting, and perpetrators must be held accountable.”

Through its Victim Assistance Outreach, the Fall River Diocese offers supportive services to victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families as well as to members of parishes impacted by these cases. For assistance, please contact Carolyn Shipp, the Director of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance Coordinator at 508-985-6508 (confidential voicemail) or cshipp@dioc-fr.org.

Assignment histories for Fathers Buckley, Byington and Degagne are provided within the list of “Credibly Accused” clergy on the Diocesan website along with complete information on the Diocesan response to the sexual abuse crisis.

Diocese of Fall River
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