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Worcester priest removed after allegation of abuse in 1970s

A veteran priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester has been placed on leave following an allegation that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a boy about 40 years ago, Bishop Robert J. McManus said in a statement Sunday.

Edward P. Lettic, now pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lancaster, was ordained in 1973, about the time the alleged sexual misconduct occurred, according to the statement. Lettic was then an associate pastor at St. Joan of Arc Church in Worcester.

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A diocesan review committee, made up of members of the clergy as well as several doctors and social workers, oversaw an investigation into the allegation and found it credible, McManus said in the statement. He said it is the only accusation officials have received against Lettic.

The diocese did not release any further information about the allegation on Sunday.

Raymond Delisle, a spokesman for the diocese, said he did not know exactly when the allegation was made or how the accuser was affiliated with the church at the time of the alleged misconduct.

McManus personally informed parishioners at Immaculate Conception of the allegation this weekend, according to Delisle.

“A family rejoices together in good times and also grieves together in times of hurt and sadness,” McManus told the congregation, according to remarks included in the diocese’s statement. “My fervent hope and prayer is that, relying on each other’s support and on God’s grace, we will work together to continue to make Immaculate Conception Parish a strong and vibrant community of faith, hope and love.”

McManus urged members of the flock to pray for each other, for victims of sexual misconduct, and for Lettic. No one answered the phone at Immaculate Conception Sunday night.

A temporary administrator will be appointed to serve at the church until the diocese selects a new full-time pastor, McManus said.

All potential abuse allegations are immediately referred to the Worcester district attorney’s office, Delisle said. A spokesman for the district attorney could not confirm Sunday night if there was an open investigation regarding the sexual misconduct allegation.

The diocese said it will file a report with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The allegation is now a matter of canon law, meaning the church will investigate, and Lettic could be removed from the priesthood if found guilty of misconduct.

In between his stints at St. Joan of Arc Church and Immaculate Conception, Lettic also worked at St. Denis Church in Douglas, St. Joseph Church in Auburn, and as chaplain at Westborough State Hospital, according to the diocese.

He was named pastor at Immaculate Conception in 1993.

Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at zachary.sampson@ globe.com.

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