Two retired Catholic priests suspected of sexually abusing minors decades ago have been suspended from the ministry, the Diocese of Fall River announced this week.

The priests have been identified as Father James F. Buckley and Father Edward J. Byington. The cases have been referred to law enforcement and an internal investigation is also underway, the diocese said in a press release. Both priests have denied the allegations.

According to the diocese, Buckley was ordained in 1959 and served in parishes in Fall River, North Easton, Orleans, Vineyard Haven, Buzzards Bay and Chatham. He retired in 2001. Byington was ordained in 1970 and served in parishes in Attleboro, Fall River, Taunton, Westport, Seekonk, Hyannis, and Somerset. He retired in 2006.

While both priests are retired, they have continued to celebrate Mass in various parishes. Byington has also taught German classes at St. Joseph's school in West Warwick, Rhode Island, the diocese said.

"Nothing is more important than the welfare of all members of our diocesan community, especially anyone who has been harmed or impacted by abuse in any way," said Bishop Edgar. M. da Cunha in a statement. "The Diocese of Fall River remains committed to resolving these matters in as fair and as transparent a process as possible and to ensuring the safety of all youth and vulnerable adults."

The Fall River Diocese recently hired a licensed social worker to offer pastoral support to victims and survivors. Carolyn Shipp said she is "here to listen to anyone with concerns and to connect survivors to the resources they need."

The diocese is asking anyone with information about the conduct of priests, either past or in the present, to contact Shipp at (508) 985-6508 or at shipp@dioc-fr.org.

The following details were released by the diocese:

Father James F. Buckley
Ordained 1959
Assignments: St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River; Sacred Heart Parish, Fall River; Immaculate Conception Parish, North Easton; St. Joan of Arc Parish, Orleans; St. Augustine Parish, Vineyard Haven; St. Margaret Parish, Buzzards Bay; Holy Redeemer Parish, Chatham; 2001 retirement.

Father Edward J. Byington
Ordained 1970
Assignments: St. John the Evangelist Parish, Attleboro; Sacred Heart Parish, Fall River; Sacred Heart Parish, Taunton; St. Patrick Parish, Fall River; St. Paul Parish, Taunton; St. George Parish, Westport; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Seekonk; Sacred Heart Parish, Fall River; St. Francis of Xavier Parish, Hyannis; St. Thomas More Parish, Somerset; 2006 retirement.

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