Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Ex-con priest may be ministering
Critics press Antiochians on status
By Bronislaus B. Kush TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER — The Rev. Charles M. Abdelahad, who took a voluntary leave of
absence as pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral last year
after being charged with sexually assaulting a female parishioner, may
have returned to his ministerial duties.
Officials with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said
yesterday that parishioners of St. George’s have told them that they
have seen Rev. Abdelahad working with choir members and taking part in
worship services at Antiochian churches in Dedham and Norwood.
“Why take the risk? That’s the question that Orthodox Church officials
and members must ask themselves about Father Abdelahad,” said David
O’Regan, an official with the Worcester chapter of SNAP said at a
Worcester Trial Court press conference. “Why let him be around
vulnerable adults in a church setting, given his conviction on charges
of assault and battery.”
Rev. Abdelahad was sentenced to serve 90 days of a 2-year jail term at
the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction after being convicted
in May of abusing a 45-year-old woman during counseling sessions held
over a three-year period at the Anna Street church.
He was specifically found guilty of one count of assault and battery
with a dangerous weapon (a shod foot) and one count of assault and
battery for biting her. Eight other charges were dismissed.
Rev. Abdelahad was scheduled to remain incarcerated until Aug. 28 but
was released 15 days earlier because of good behavior.
Mr. O’Regan said the priest was spotted at St. George Antiochian Church
in Norwood and St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church in Dedham.
He said Rev. Abdelahad — wearing clerical garb — has been seen singing
with the choirs and taking part in worship service in an area around the
altar that is restricted to priests.
“We think he and church officials are testing the waters,” Mr. O’Regan
said. “The next thing he’ll be doing is giving homilies and distributing
He said SNAP objects to the priest’s return to ministry because the
victim “deserves some peace of mind” and out of concern about other
women in the churches who may be around Rev. Abdelahad.
“For this convicted violent criminal to have any title or position or
appearance of power and legitimacy is problematic,” Mr. O’Regan said.
He said offenders take advantage of any role they are given to get close
to other victims.
“They use any position or title they have to prove to doubters that
they’ve been ‘cleared’ or ‘rehabilitated.’ After conviction, they often
take ‘baby steps’ to win back power and prestige, and sometimes end up
in even more exalted positions than they already had,” he said.
SNAP called on church officials to deny the convicted priest any role in
Church officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The events surrounding Rev. Abdelahad has caused a rift at the local
church between supporters and opponents.