Related: 2014 Audit finds Diocese compliant with National Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
June 25, 2015, WORCESTER, MA -- Following the Catholic Church’s commitment to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Most Rev. Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester, has announced that Gerard L. Branconnier, Robert E. Kelley and Lowe B. Dongor have been laicized. All were dismissed from the clerical state by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. 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. Although the decisions were reached by late 2014, formal announcement has waited until the period for any individual appeals 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,” said Bishop McManus.
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 was removed from ministry in 1993 by Bishop Timothy 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 & St. Thomas Aquinas, Warren. Branconnier is now 63 years old. His case was sent to Rome in November 2005.
Robert E. Kelley, who is 73 years old, was removed from ministry in 1985 by Bishop Timothy 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, 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. His case was sent to Rome in November 2005.
Lowe B. Dongor, who is 38 years old, was removed from ministry by Bishop Robert McManus in 2011for possession of child pornography. Dongor had not yet completed his first year as a priest, which was as associate pastor at St. Joseph, 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. His case was sent to Rome following charges by the District Attorney in 2011.
In a related announcement, the Diocese of Worcester was found compliant in the national compliance audit in 2014 regarding the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. In 2014 it 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. In late 2014 it launched a new online training program for recognizing the signs and symptoms of child abuse in collaboration with Dallas Child Advocacy Center to augment the diocesan 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.
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, L.I.C.S.W., Chairperson, Executive Director, Pathways of Central Massachusetts; Maurice Boisvert, L.I.C.S.W., CEO Emeritus, YOU Inc.; John Duggan, M.D., Pediatrician; Claire Freda, Leominster City Councilor; Richard Hummel, Ph.D., Psychologist, Child Sexual Assault Specialist; Marian McGovern, State Police Colonel (retired); Christina Martinez, LMFT; Father Dean N. Paleologos, Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral (retired); Katherine Perkins, L.I.C.S.W., Child Sexual Assault Specialist; Honorable Edward J. Reynolds; and Lynda M. Young, M.D., Pediatrician.
In addition to these three laicizations, the Diocese of Worcester has previously announced the following men as having been removed from the clerical state by Rome since 2011: David Blizard, Thomas Kane, Robert Shauris, and Thomas Teczar.
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