LOWELL, Mass. – A priest suspended because of alleged sexual contact with a child 31 years ago adamantly denied the claim Monday and vowed to fight for his job.
"I have done nothing," the Rev. D. George Spagnolia slowly declared, followed by rousing applause from 200 supporters inside St. Patrick's Parish. "I demand due process."
Breaking the silence of the active and retired priests caught up in the Boston Archdiocese's sexual abuse scandal, Spagnolia said he sent a certified letter Monday to Cardinal Bernard Law saying he will fight the suspension. He said he'll use civil and church law.
"I believe that ultimately, this case very well could go to Rome," he said.
The archdiocese did not return a call for comment.
Spagnolia said he was told by church officials that the allegation against him was made Feb. 16 and allegedly took place 31 years ago when he worked at a church in Boston's Roxbury section.
Following reports that the Archdiocese of Boston shuttled defrocked priest and convicted pedophile John Geoghan between parishes despite allegations of abuse, Law announced a new zero tolerance policy last month and provided prosecutors with the names of 80 current and former priests accused of sexual abuse in the past 40 years.
On Friday, Spagnolia became the 10th priest, and fourth pastor, removed from active duty following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
"I and many others believe that this policy is unjust and inherently evil in its implementation," Spagnolia said. "I cannot stand by mute and allow this injustice to continue unchecked."
Spagnolia challenged Law to produce proof, such as minutes of a meeting, that his review committee investigated the claim before suspending him.
"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. Father Spag would never do anything like that."