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Priest placed on leave after allegation surfaces of child sex abuse in the 1970s

The archdiocese of Boston says it’s placing a priest on an administrative leave of absence after receiving an allegation of child sexual abuse.

The conduct by the Rev. Joseph F. Byrne, a retired senior priest, allegedly occurred in the early 1970s. It was only recently reported to the archdiocese, church officials said in a statement.

The archdiocese says it immediately notified law enforcement officials of the allegation. It has also initiated its own preliminary investigation.

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Byrne was also the subject of another allegation in 2012, the archdiocese said. That conduct also allegedly occurred in the 1970s, the statement said. That allegation was found to be “unsubstantiated,” the statement said.

Byrne will not be allowed to minister to the public, pending the outcome of the preliminary investigation into the new allegation, the archdiocese said.

“The decision to place Fr. Byrne on administrative leave represents the Archdiocese’s commitment to the welfare of all parties and does not represent a determination of Fr. Byrne’s guilt or innocence as it pertains to this allegation. The Archdiocese will work to resolve this case as expeditiously as possible and in a manner that is fair to all parties,” the statement said.

The archdiocese’s statement noted that through its Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach, the church continues to make counseling and other services available to survivors, their families and parishes impacted by clergy sexual abuse. The church encouraged any person in need of pastoral assistance or support to contact the office at 781-794-2581.

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