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Fall River Diocese Suspends 3rd Retired Priest This Month Over Child Sex Abuse Allegations

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River announced Sunday it has suspended a retired priest over allegations of sexual abuse against a minor.

In a statement, the diocese said it was investigating accusations that Father Herbert Nichols abused a minor about 20 years ago, and that it was prompted to begin its probe and suspend him from the church after a recent review of personnel files.

Though not assigned to any parish in retirement, the diocese said Nichols did help with various church celebrations and will now be prohibited from doing any ministry-related work until the investigation ends. Nichols was ordained in 1975 and worked for parishes in Fall River, New Bedford and Taunton before retiring.

Last year, the diocese hired an independent consultant, the statement explained, to review its personnel records. Nichols is the third retired priest this month to be suspended by the Fall River Diocese over child sex abuse allegations, following the suspensions of James Buckley and Edward Byington.

“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,” Bishop Edgar da Cunha said in the statement.  “I continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have suffered greatly.”

All three priests deny the accusations against them.

With reporting from WBUR's Newscast Unit and Lisa Creamer

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