Two Massachusetts priests have been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement from Fall River’s Catholic Diocese.
Father Richard E. Degagne, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Easton, and Father Daniel W. Lacroix, co-pastor of St. Joseph-St. Therese, St. Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima Parishes in New Bedford, have been placed on leave because of alleged misconduct that is said to have occurred decades ago.
The information was gathered during an external review of the diocese’s priest personnel files and requires further investigation.
Parishioners of the parishes where these priests serve were informed of this in a letter from Bishop Edgar da Cunha that was read at all weekend Masses.
"Nothing is more important than the welfare of survivors, children and our community at-large," said Bishop da Cunha. "We have pledged to handle all matters of abuse in a pastoral and professional way and have implemented many new reforms since 2017. I continue to pray for anyone who has been affected by the scourge of sexual abuse."
Degagne’s alleged misconduct is said to have occurred before he was a priest.
Both Degagne and Lacroix have denied the alleged misconduct. Both will remain on leave pending further investigation by external investigators.
The cases have been referred to the Bristol County and Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Offices.
Anyone with information or concerns is encouraged to contact the district attorney or the diocese’s office of safe environment at 508-985-6508.
The Diocese of Fall River says Bishop da Cunha has instituted a host of revamped practices and procedures to ensure the safety of parishioners, especially children and young people, as well as to foster healing in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
The diocese says it has also established a revamped Safe Environment Enterprise to re-structure and strengthen all child protection programs and protocols and create more effective policies and processes for handling allegations and the survivors of abuse impacted by them. Former law enforcement officials and a social worker have been hired by the diocese to oversee it.