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Archdiocese clears priest of ’70s child abuse charges

The Rev. Joseph F. Byrne has been reinstated in the ministry after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston cleared the 69-year-old priest of sexual abuse allegations, the archdiocese said Thursday.

Byrne was placed on administrative leave in May 2012 after someone contacted the archdiocese with an allegation that Byrne had sexually abused a child in the 1970s. The allegation was found to be unsubstantiated, the archdiocese said.

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According to Byrne’s assignment history, he served at St. Matthew’s Parish in Dorchester from 1969 to 1975, then moved to St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy.

As a result of the investigation, Byrne is no longer on administrative leave and has been assigned the status of senior priest, the archdiocese said.

“In reaching this decision, Cardinal Sean O’Malley reaffirmed his care and concern for all persons impacted by the reality of sexual abuse of children,” the archdiocese said. “The cardinal and the arch­diocese remain committed to resolving cases of this nature in a manner that is as just as possible for all involved.”

In June 2005, Byrne received five years of probation after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $135,000 from Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham and moving it to his personal bank accounts, the Globe previously reported. He had started embezzling the money at least as early as February 1997.

Lauren Dezenski can be reached at lauren.dezenski@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenDezenski.
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