Amsterdam priest placed on leave following sex abuse allegations

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A priest serving the Amsterdam community has been placed on leave by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese following investigations into allegations of sex abuse from a Springfield, Massachusetts diocese. 

Rev. Jeffrey L’Arche, of the LaSalette Missionaries and pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Amsterdam and St. Stephen’s Church in Hagaman, was placed on leave Wednesday by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger after the Diocese of Springfield Misconduct Commission investigated L’Arche for an allegation of child sex abuse some time between 1976 and 1981. The commission found the allegation to be credible. 

“However, a subsequent investigation initiated by the LaSalette congregation and conducted by Praesidium Inc. found the allegation to be ‘highly questionable’ and therefore, not credible,” states the release from the Albany Diocese. 

Because results of the investigations conflicted, an asterisk appears next to L‘Arche’s name on the Springfield and Albany lists of clergy offenders. 

No details on the Springfield investigation were available. Typically the district attorney of the area where the abuse allegedly occurred would oversee the case, said Mary DeTurris Poust, the director of communications for the Diocese of Albany. A media spokesperson for the Hampden District Attorney’s office, which would oversee Springfield, Massachusetts, could not be reached for comment. 

“There have been no allegations of abuse against Father L’Arche in the Diocese of Albany during the many years he has served here,” Poust said. 

L’Arche came to the diocese in 1997. Before that he served on the religious congregation ministry team in Hartford, Connecticut; Orlando, Florida and Holyoke, Massachusetts. 

L’Arche was performing all of his priestly duties, Poust said. 

While on leave L’Arche is no longer allowed to perform any of his priest duties, wear the clerical garb or present himself as a priest, according to a press release from the Albany Diocese. 

Various priests will perform Mass until the church finds a permanent replacement, Poust said.

Poust said as long as L’Arche’s name remains on the list he cannot serve in public ministry.

“The Catholic Church and the Diocese of Albany have a zero-tolerance policy,” Poust said. “Barring any new evidence, or a change in status from the Springfield Diocese, this decision would be permanent.” 

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