Sexual Abuse Allegation Levied Against Another Priest with Ties to Cape Cod

FALL RIVER – An allegation of sexual abuse on a minor has suspended another retired Fall River Diocese priest with ties to Cape Cod.

The allegation levied against Father Herbert Nichols was from about 20 years ago and the diocese says the decision to suspend him was based on information from a review of personnel files.

Nichols was ordained in 1975 and retired in 2015.

Nichols, who denies the allegations, previously served at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Orleans. He also served at St. Ann Parish, in Raynham; St. Joseph Parish and St. Mary Parish, in Taunton; St. Anne Parish and St. Bernadette Parish, in Fall River; and St. James Parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, and St. Anthony of Padua Parish, in New Bedford. Nichols also served in ministry in New York as a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal community.

The allegation remains under investigation by the Diocese.

Although Nichols is retired, he has assisted with the celebration of masses in various parishes since retirement, including with the Maronite community within the diocese.

His suspension precludes him from all ministry until the investigation is completed and a determination on the matter is made.

The diocese announced the allegation Sunday a week after two other retired priests with ties to the Cape were suspended due to similar allegations.

The allegations against Father James Buckley and Father Edward Byington are also said to have occurred decades ago.

Buckley previously served at St. Joan of Arc Parish, in Orleans; St. Augustine Parish, on Vineyard Haven; St. Margaret Parish, in Buzzards Bay; and Holy Redeemer Parish, in Chatham. He also served at parishes in Fall River and North Easton. He was ordained in 1959 and retired in 2001.

Byington spent time at St. Francis of Xavier Parish in Hyannis. He also served at parishes Attleboro, Fall River, Taunton, Westport, Seekonk and Somerset. Byington was ordained in 1970 and retired in 2006.

Both Buckley and Byington denied the allegations.

Last year the Fall River Diocese hired an independent consultant to complete a comprehensive evaluation of its priestly personnel files, and Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha informed parishioners that a list of credibly accused clergy would follow.

The Diocese suspended some priests in response to information gathered during the file evaluation pending further investigation, as required under its policies.

“The task of evaluating all of the files and the response needed on our part as a result of the findings have, regretfully, taken more time than first thought,” said Bishop da Cunha. “It is crucial that we take the time and perform the diligence necessary to compile a list that is accurate and complete, and we continue to do so.”

“I understand that these recent announcements regarding the suspensions of priests are upsetting to our diocesan community of faith and often bring renewed pain to victims of sexual abuse especially victims of sexual abuse by clergy,” added Bishop da Cunha.  “I continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have suffered greatly.”

The diocese recently hired Carolyn Shipp, a licensed social worker, as the diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator in an effort to improve its Office of Safe Environment. She will focus on pastoral outreach to victims and survivors.

Anyone with information they wish to raise regarding the conduct of any past or present member of the Diocese, is encouraged to contact Shipp at 508-985-6508 or by emailing cshipp@dioc-fr.org.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the CapeCod.com NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.



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