May 17, 2005

Diocese priest stripped of duty

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— The Rev. Michael J. Sheridan, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester who was ordered back to Worcester this weekend after an alleged incident in a northern Maine jail, has been stripped of his authority to function as a priest in this diocese.

Bishop Robert J. McManus said yesterday he is awaiting a full report on Rev. Sheridan’s conduct from the Diocese of Portland, Maine, but is going to let stand a decision by Bishop Richard Malone of Portland to remove his priestly authority. Rev. Sheridan, 56, “will not have faculties for priestly ministry in the Diocese of Worcester or anywhere else at this time,” Bishop McManus said.

District Attorney Michael Povich of Ellsworth, Maine, said yesterday in a telephone interview that he did not want to divulge details of the incident except to say that it involved “inappropriate physical interaction” with a female inmate at the jail. Some of that interaction was videotaped by a camera in the jail.

Mr. Povich said the conduct was in no way criminal and he preferred that details be released by the Worcester and Portland dioceses. If the incident had been a conjugal visit involving a married couple, they would have been told to stop, he said.

Jail authorities in Machias, Maine, reported the incident to the Portland diocese, which also is investigated. The Portland diocese declined to give specifics except to say the incident, which allegedly happened about a week ago, was a violation of its code of conduct. Bishop Malone ordered Rev. Sheridan out of his diocese and back to Worcester. Rev. Sheridan never officially became a priest of the Portland diocese and remained under the authority of the Worcester bishop; therefore, he was ordered back to Worcester.

A former prison chaplain, Rev. Sheridan was administrator of Holy Name Parish of Machias and St. Michael Mission of Cherryfield, Maine. He did not appear for Masses in Maine last weekend and a substitute priest was sent into those communities.

Rev. Sheridan, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., had been serving in Maine for the past decade, according to Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the Worcester diocese. He had planned to return to Worcester this summer, he said.

The priest was ordained here in 1975 by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan and served in a number of parishes including St. Pius X, Leicester; St. Bernard, Worcester; Holy Family of Nazareth, Leominster; St. Luke the Evangelist, Westboro; St. Peter, Northbridge; St. Louis, Webster; and St. Mary, Uxbridge.

Posted by kshaw at May 17, 2005 07:01 AM