LOWELL, Mass. (AP) -- Supporters of the Rev. D. George Spagnolia, the first suspended priest to publicly challenge the Boston Archdiocese's new sexual abuse rules, say he is the victim of a witch hunt.
Spagnolia, who was suspended last week after being accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1971, has denied any misconduct and vowed to fight for his job.
"It's turning into a witch hunt," said Jacqueline Carnerly, 66. "He's a good priest. He's our pastor. He does everything for us. The children go to him. They all love him."
Spagnolia on Monday criticized the archdiocese's policy of suspending accused priests before they're given a chance to defend themselves and reporting to authorities the names of all current and former priests who've been accused.
Spagnolia became one of 10 active Roman Catholic priests suspended under a policy intended to restore the community's trust after allegations that the archdiocese did little to stop abusing priests.
"This policy of no tolerance as it is being implemented does not arrive at justice, but cloaks fear and arrogance in the mantle of righteousness," Spagnolia said from the altar at St. Patrick Parish.
The archdiocese did not detail the alleged abuse or identify the accuser in information given to the Suffolk County District Attorney's office after Spagnolia's suspension, said office spokesman David Procopio.
In a statement released Monday, the archdiocese defended its decision, saying it acted only after meeting separately with the alleged victim and Spagnolia, and determining that there was reasonable cause to believe the abuse occurred.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.