FALL RIVER — Two priests, including one from New Bedford, have been placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Fall River “as a result of information gathered during an external review of the Diocese’s personnel files,” according to a press release. The information relates to alleged misconduct by the two priests that occurred decades ago, and which the Diocese says “requires furthers investigation.”

Father Daniel W. Lacroix, co-pastor at St. Joseph-St. Therese, St. Mary and Our Lady of Fatima Parishes in New Bedford, and Father Richard E. Degagne, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Easton, have both been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation of both cases of alleged misconduct by external investigators. 

According to the Diocese release, the misconduct alleged of Fr. Degagne is said to have occurred before he was a priest. 

Both priests have denied the alleged misconduct. Both cases have been referred to the Bristol County and Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Offices.

While the release does go on to discuss the measures the Diocese of Fall River has taken to combat the Church's sexual abuse crisis, the release did not mention the specific nature of the alleged misconduct by Frs. Lacroix and Degagne.

Parishioners of the parishes where these priests serve were informed of this in a letter from Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.,  that was read at all weekend Masses.

The Diocese of Fall River says it placed the priests on leave based on information from an external review of the Diocese’s priest personnel files, announced earlier this year. Bishop da Cunha also “instituted a host of revamped practices and procedures to ensure the safety of parishioners of the Fall River Diocese especially children and young people, as well as to foster healing in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis,” according to the release.

“Nothing is more important than the welfare of survivors, children and our community-at-large,” Bishop da Cunha said. “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.”

The release points out that the Diocese has also established a revamped Safe Environment Enterprise “to restructure 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.” The Diocese has hired former law enforcement officials and a social worker to oversee the program.

The Diocese says anyone with information or concerns regarding the conduct of any past or present member of the Diocese is encouraged to contact the Bristol County or Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Offices, or the Diocese of Fall River Office of Safe Environment at (508) 985-6508 or by email osechancery@dioc-fr.org.

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