March 01, 2006

Priest arrested on assault charges

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

By Gerard F. Russell

DUDLEY— The pastor of St. John’s Church in Worcester, who was placed on administrative leave in 2002, was arrested Tuesday and arraigned today on charges he assaulted his mother and sister at their Oxford home.

Rev. Joseph A. Coonan, 58, is charged with domestic assault and battery, assault and battery on a person over 65 years of age and one count of intimidating a witness.

A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf in the arraignment before Judge Neil G. Snider. He was released on a bail of $250 and personal recognizance. The case was continued to April 4 for a pretrial conference.

Rev. Coonan was removed from ministry at St. John’s Church on Temple Street in August 2002 by then-Bishop Daniel P. Reilly after allegations of sexual misconduct from the 1970s surfaced. Prior to his removal, 15 men from Oxford told state police that Rev. Coonan did inappropriate things with them when he was a teacher and counselor in Oxford, prior to his entering the seminary. He was a teacher at Oxford High School for eight years.

In 2003, the diocese asked Rev. Coonan to resign his position as pastor.

At the time, a spokesman for Rev. Coonan said the priest had hired a canon lawyer and planned to fight his removal “on canonical grounds.”

According to an Oxford Police report filed with the Dudley District Court clerk’s office, Rev. Coonan had been drinking at the time of the incident in an apartment he shared with his mother and sister at 3 Hope Avenue.

A police report on file in the court alleges Rev. Coonan attempted to choke his mother and pulled his sister's hair during a family argument.

Posted by kshaw at March 1, 2006 06:30 PM