By Max Bowen
Father Richard E. Degagne, who served as the pastor at Sacred Heart Parish from 1994-2000, has been placed on administrative leave.
In a statement released by the Fall River Diocese on Nov. 2, Degagne and Father Daniel W. Lacroix—co-pastor of St. Joseph-St. Therese, St. Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima Parishes in New Bedford—have been placed on leave from “active priestly ministry.”
This announcement followed information gathered during an external review of the Diocese’s personnel files relating to alleged misconduct, said to have occurred decades ago. The alleged misconduct for which Degagne is accused of occurred before he became a priest, according to the statement.
The priests will remain on leave pending further investigation of both cases by external investigators. Both have denied the alleged misconduct. These matters have been referred to the Bristol County and Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Offices.
“Parishioners of the parishes where these priests serve were informed of this in a letter from Bishop da Cunha that was read at all weekend Masses,” the statement read.
In addition to instituting the external review, the Diocese established a revamped Safe Environment Enterprise to re-structure and strengthen all child protection programs and protocols and create more effective policies and processes for handling allegations and the survivors of abuse impacted by them. The Diocese has hired former law enforcement officials and a social worker to oversee this enterprise.
At the time of this announcement, Degagne was pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Easton, which he was assigned to in 2012. Following his ordination, he served at Immaculate Conception in Tautnon and St. John Neumann in East Freetown, along with Sacred Heart in North Attleborough.
As a parochial vicor, Lacroix was assigned to Holy Name Parish in New Bedord, Holy Redeemer Parish in Chatham, St. Patrick Parish in Wareham, and St. Mary Parish in Mansfield. He was ordained in 2001 and assigned to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet, St. Francis Xavier in Hyannis, and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Seekonk.
Anyone with information regarding the conduct of any past or present member of the Diocese is encouraged to contact the Bristol County or Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Offices, or the Diocese of Fall River, Office of Safe Environment at 508-985-6508 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.