Three former diocesan priests have been laicized, according to a press release from the Diocese. Following the Catholic Church’s commitment to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop McManus has announced that Gerard L. Branconnier, Robert E. Kelley and Lowe B. Dongor have been laicized. All were dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis, according to the press release.
As a result of the laicizations, the three men may never function in any capacity as priests or be referred to as priests or as “Father” in writing, such as in future obituaries, explained Raymond L. Delisle, director of the Office of Communications and chancellor. The decisions were reached late in 2014, but formal announcement was delayed until the appeal period was concluded.
“It is my fervent prayer that Christ may bring healing and hope to anyone who has been abused by these men or by anyone in the Catholic Church,” Bishop McManus said.
Contact Diocese for help
Bishop McManus encourages anyone in need of pastoral assistance as a result of clerical abuse to contact the diocesan victims assistance coordinator in the Office of Healing and Prevention by calling 508-929-4363. The bishop noted, “As Pope Francis wrote to the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world in February 2015, ‘everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.’”
Gerard L. Branconnier, 63, was removed from ministry in 1993 by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington following the determination of credible allegations of abuse with a 16-year-old young man. Branconnier has not had faculties for priestly ministry since 1993. He was ordained in 1978 and served in the following parishes: St. Roch, Oxford; North American Martyrs, Auburn; Sacred Heart of Jesus, Gardner, and St. Paul and St. Thomas Aquinas, Warren. Bishop McManus submitted the case to Rome in November 2005.
Robert E. Kelley, 73, was removed from ministry in 1985 by Bishop Harrington after learning of credible allegations of abuse which had occurred in the 1970s. He has not had faculties to serve in priestly ministry since 1985. Kelley was ordained in 1968 and served in the following parishes: Notre Dame, Southbridge; St. Boniface, Lunenburg; St. Cecilia, Leominster, and Sacred Heart of Jesus, Gardner. He has served two prison terms, one in 1990 and one in 2003, for sexual abuse of children prior to 1984 and is registered in Massachusetts as a Level 3 sex offender. Bishop McManus submitted the case to Rome in November 2005
Lowe B. Dongor, 38, was removed from ministry by Bishop McManus in July 2011 for possession of child pornography. Dongor had not yet completed his first year as a priest. He was an associate pastor at St. Joseph Parish, Fitchburg. Dongor has not had faculties to serve as a priest since then. When it was learned that he returned to his native Philippines prior to a pre-trial hearing, Bishop McManus notified the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines that Dongor was not a priest in good standing should he try to present himself for ministry there.
Dongor turned himself in to authorities in the Philippines and was returned to the United States to stand trial in Massachusetts on child pornography and larceny charges. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in the Worcester County House of Correction; the sentence was suspended and he was placed on supervised probation for five years. Since his sentencing, he has been deported to the Philippines, according to Mr. Delisle. His case was sent to Rome in 2011.
Diocese in compliance
In a related announcement, the Diocese of Worcester was found compliant in the 2014 national compliance audit regarding the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. In 2014 the Diocese reported having received three new reports of abuse, all of which occurred prior to 1980, and has had ongoing contact with 24 victims and their families who made reports prior to July 2013.
“The Diocese of Worcester is committed to creating safe environments in all diocesan parishes and institutions and continues to work closely with local law enforcement agencies and community resources to support that commitment,” the press release stated. In late 2014 it launched an online training program for recognizing the signs and symptoms of child abuse in collaboration with Dallas Child Advocacy Center to augment its onsite training programs. The Diocese has processed more than 36,000 background checks over the past decade for ordained and lay employees and volunteers, “which is another example of how it has been fully supportive of the commitment toward the safety of children in its care,” Mr. Delisle stated.
A Diocesan Review Board meets regularly to review cases brought forward from victims of abuse, as well as concerns involved in the ongoing support of victims and their families who have come forward over the years. More than half of the board members are from outside the employ of the diocese, as mandated by the charter and have pertinent experience to assist the diocese in meeting its commitment to safety. They include the following: Judith Audette, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, chairperson, executive director, Pathways of Central Massachusetts; Maurice Boisvert, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, CEO emeritus, YOU Inc.; Dr. John Duggan, pediatrician; Claire Freda, Leominster City Councilor; Richard Hummel, psychologist, Child Sexual Assault Specialist; Marian McGovern, State Police Colonel (retired); Christina Martinez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist; Father Dean N. Paleologos, Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral (retired); Katherine Perkins, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, Child Sexual Assault Specialist; Honorable Edward J. Reynolds; and Dr. Lynda M. Young, pediatrician.
In addition to these three laicizations, the Diocese of Worcester previously announced that the following men had been removed from the clerical state by Rome since 2011: David L. Blizard, Thomas A. Kane, Robert A. Shauris, and Thomas H. Teczar, who is deceased.