The Suffolk County district attorney’s office is investigating an allegation that a Catholic priest now working in Malverne sexually abused a minor when he was assigned to a Suffolk parish.
Church officials, who said they sent the complaint to the district attorney’s office, said the accusation stems from “many years ago.”
The Rev. Frank Parisi, 59, who has served as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Malverne for the last 11 years, voluntarily stepped down from his post this month after the allegation was recently made, the Diocese of Rockville Centre said in a statement.
Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, said Tuesday that the office received a complaint from the diocese relating to Parisi and is investigating. He did not have further details.
Parisi, who was ordained in 1985, previously served at St. Joseph Roman Catholic church in Kings Park, St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church in Amityville and St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Smithtown. He was named pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in 2005.
“It is with deep sadness that I must inform you that an allegation of misconduct has been made against Fr. Frank Parisi,” the diocese said in its statement, which was read at Masses in the parish on June 19. “The alleged misconduct is reported to have occurred many years ago but has only recently been reported to the diocese. It does not involve anyone from this parish.”
The diocese said that “in accordance with the processes and procedures outlined in the Diocesan Child Protection Policy, the matter has been reported to the civil authorities and Fr. Frank has voluntarily agreed to step down from all ministry while required processes and procedures are undertaken.”
“The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People establishes specific guidelines when an allegation is made against a clergy member. An investigation is begun when an accusation is made. During the investigation the accused is presumed innocent,” the diocese said.
In a note published June 19 in the parish bulletin, Parisi wrote, “During this past week, allegations were presented to the diocese that I engaged in inappropriate behavior with a minor a little over 20 years ago. In accordance with the diocesan policy, I have voluntarily stepped away from active ministry until such time that these allegations have been investigated and I have been cleared of them.”
Supporters of Parisi expressed surprise and skepticism about the allegation.
“What I know of Frank Parisi, I would be shocked if the allegations were founded,” said Frank McQuade, a former priest who attended seminary with Parisi in the early 1980s and remains a friend.
David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests criticized Bishop William Murphy for not suspending Parisi.
“Nothing in the church abuse policies gives an accused predator the chance to step down voluntarily and use church resources to spin a serious allegation,” Clohessy said.
Diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan responded, “Once again, Mr. Clohessy demonstrates greater interest in self-promotion by making baseless and false accusations without care or regard to the facts.”
Dolan added that the diocese fully follows guidelines set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for dealing with sex abuse allegations.