Retired Mass. Priest Charged in NH Sex Assaults

A retired Episcopal priest from Marblehead is facing felonious sexual assault charges involving two incidents in New Hampshire with a child under age 13, according to the Associated Press.

Police in Bedford, N.H., have charged 78-year-old Franklin Huntress after a two-month investigation into incidents in the 1980s. Police say Huntress was arrested June 30 and extradited to New Hampshire, where he was arraigned Wednesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court. He was released later on $25,000 cash bail.

At the time of the incidents, Huntress did not live in New Hampshire, but was invited back for a community function. Police said Huntress served at Grace Church in Manchester from 1971 to 1975.

Police declined to elaborate to the AP on the crimes or victims.

Bishop Thomas Shaw removed him from the priesthood on Feb. 11 after a church investigation into allegations of child abuse. Huntress had voluntarily resigned rather than face a church trial conducted by officials of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

He had been associated with St. Michael’s in Marblehead and Church of the Holy Name in Swampscott in his retirement, occasionally serving at the altar but not on staff. Parishioners were notified of the allegations back in February.

The church investigation into Huntress began after Bishop Shaw’s office received a complaint last October from a person who reported being sexually abused as a child by Huntress in 1974. An investigation by Shaw’s office into that allegation uncovered the fact that Huntress had been arrested on charges of child sexual abuse in England in 1994, according to AP, which spoke to the Rev. Canon Mally Lloyd of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

Lloyd said no charges were filed against Huntress in that case because the family did not want the child to testify. But church investigators concluded the allegations were true after reading the police report and speaking to the officers involved.

At that point, Huntress was given a choice of facing further investigation and a church trial or resigning his priesthood. He chose to resign. After a three-day period when Huntress could have changed his mind, Shaw “deposed” Huntress, removing him from the priesthood.

Diocese officials said they notified the Middlesex County district attorney’s office and child protection services about the allegation from 1974 against Huntress, but that the statute of limitations has expired on that incident.

The new charges filed by New Hampshire police date from the 1980s.

Huntress has served at 12 churches, including four in England, since becoming a priest in 1962.

In Massachusetts, he served at St. Paul’s in Malden from 1962 to ’65, St. Martin’s in New Bedford from 1985 to ’91, All Saints in Dorchester from 1995 to 2002, and Church of the Advent in Boston from 1998 to 2001.

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