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Priest who led Lowell, Marlborough churches barred from public ministry, sentenced to ‘life of prayer and penance’ for sexual abuse

A Catholic priest who formerly led parishes in Lowell and Marlborough has been barred from public ministry after an ecclesiastical panel found him guilty of sexually abusing a minor in the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Boston said Friday.

In a statement, the archdiocese confirmed the resolution of the case involving Rev. Paul J. McLaughlin, the former pastor of St. Peter Parish in Lowell and Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough.

The statement said McLaughlin, 91, had been “found guilty of child abuse and his sentence has been affirmed by the Vatican to live a life of Prayer and Penance.”

In light of that sentence, the archdiocese said, McLaughlin, who currently lives in California, is barred from exercising any public ministry, including celebrating public Masses. In addition, the statement said, he “may not provide spiritual direction, may not wear clerical attire, and cannot function” as a cleric.


“He is to live in contemplation of his sins and pray for all of those affected by his conduct,” the archdiocese said.

McLaughlin was ordained in 1955 and placed on administrative leave in September 2001 following an allegation of abuse “reported to have occurred in the late 1960′s with a minor,” the statement said. “Having been found guilty he is forbidden from all public ministry and from otherwise presenting himself as a priest. He is expected to dedicate his life to praying for victims and repenting of his past offenses.”

The Globe reported in February 2003 that three men the prior year had come forward to accuse McLaughlin of of abusing them in the 1960s.

One man said McLaughlin orally raped him in the 1960s, when he was 11 or 12 years old and McLaughlin was serving at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington.

He was also accused in a separate lawsuit of abusing a boy at least 10 times from about 1967 to 1969, when the boy was 8 to 10 and McLaughlin was assigned to St. John the Evangelist in Swampscott, the Globe reported in July, when a lawyer for the plaintiffs announced a settlement agreement.


McLaughlin couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.

His Massachusetts assignments included stints at St. Ann Parish in Peabody from February 1955 to February 1956; St. Agnes Parish in Arlington from January 1962 to November 1966; St. John the Evangelist in Swampscott from November 1966 to September 1972; Regis College in Weston, where he served as chaplain from September 1972 to June 1977; and the pastorships at the Lowell and Marlborough parishes from June 1977 to February 2001, according to the archdiocese.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.