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Bishop Daily removes Flushing priest over sex case

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A priest at St. Kevin’s Church in Flushing was asked to step down after it was alleged he sexually abused three children more than 20 years ago, the bishop of the diocese said in a letter read to parishioners Sunday.

Rev. James Smith, 71, left his position as pastor at St. Kevin’s Church on 195th Street in Auburndale two weeks ago, said Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which also includes Queens.

At Sunday’s mass, worshipers at St. Kevin’s were read a letter from Bishop Thomas Daily, head of the diocese, on the reasons behind Smith’s absence from the church.

“Father James Smith, your pastor for the past 13 years, has not been among you at St. Kevin’s for about two weeks,” Daily wrote. “This is the result of information presented to the diocese only recently that alleges he was involved in inappropriate sexual contact with three minors more than 20 years ago.”

Church officials would not reveal where Smith was said to have committed such abuses.

Although the letter went on to say Smith has denied the allegations, Daily said “he has been placed on administrative leave.”

Smith served at the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church on 143rd Street in Whitestone from 1965 to 1976, DeRosa said. From there, he moved on to Our Lady of Hope in Middle Village and then Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Astoria in 1980. Smith stayed in Astoria until moving to St. Kevin’s in 1989.

Michael Dowd, an attorney representing an alleged victim of Smith, said the priest is accused of sexually abusing three boys from 1970 to 1973 while serving in Whitestone, Newsday reported.

Dowd could not be reached for comment. Representatives from the Flushing and Whitestone churches would not comment on Smith.

Due to the statute of limitations, Smith cannot be charged with a crime, a law enforcement official said.

Smith’s removal from St. Kevin’s was announced as Daily came under increasing scrutiny for his lax handling of sex abuse accusations against priests in New York City and in Boston, where he previously served.

The Rev. John McVernon told Newsday he had approached Daily in the 1990s to express concern about parties the Rev. Frank Capellupo held for teen-age boys in the rectory of Long Island City’s Most Precious Blood parish, the newspaper said Tuesday.

But Capellupo was not removed from his priestly duties until June 2000, when he was charged with sodomizing a 14-year-old boy in the rectory of a Brooklyn church, DeRosa said. The charges were later dropped, he said.

Capellupo, who was assigned to Most Precious Blood from 1985 to 1995, still lives in Queens but could not be reached for comment.

DeRosa said Daily was out of the state and therefore could not comment on McVernon’s claim that the bishop failed to act expediently on his concerns about Capellupo.

The Queens district attorney’s office also would not comment on the specifics of Smith’s case.

But representatives from the DA’s office Monday met with the Brooklyn diocese about priests accused of sexual abuse in Queens and issued a statement after the meeting.

“We outlined the information we want and we anticipate a prompt response,” the statement from the DA’s office said.

After volunteering with the office for several years, Smith had worked as a domestic violence counselor for the Queens DA from 1990 until 1997, when the program was transferred out of the office, said Patrick Clark, spokesman for the office.

But he continued to work there sporadically as a clerk until he was fired March 22 after the diocese notified the DA’s office of the allegations against him, Clark said.

“There were no complaints,” said Clark. “He was described as being personable, likable and capable.”

Smith, a Brooklyn native, started his career as a priest at Our Lady of Grace Church in Howard Beach, in 1956 before moving to Whitestone in 1965, DeRosa said.

Smith, whose brother died recently, is undergoing psychological counseling for treatment of depression, Dailey said in his letter to parishioners at St. Kevin’s.

“This does not negate all of the good and dedicated priestly service that Father Smith has offered in our diocese,” Daily wrote. “However, in view of this difficult and painful situation and since he has reached the retirement age of 71, I do not intend to extend Father’s Smith’s term as pastor of St. Kevin.”

A 20-year-old parishioner at St. Kevin’s said she was shocked to learn of the allegations.

“For most of my life I’ve been going to confession with him,” she said. “He was just a really nice guy. I really hope it’s not true.”

—Dustin Brown contributed to this story

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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Reader Feedback

anonomyous from queens says:
I served as an altar boy under Fr, Smith and I am shocked at the allegations. If they are true I feel sorry for the victims and wonder if he had known that my Father was a Police officer and if maybe that might had been a reason he had not attempted to molest me. If it were than Thank GOD my Father was a COP
Dec. 7, 2013, 6:40 pm
Jody Contartesi from Smithtown says:
Went to Holy Trinity in the 70's . I would like to know , every time Fr Smith came into the classroom to pick children why didn't the nun ever ask why ??? She always let him take the children all the time . What happened to her ?
Jan. 30, 2014, 9:39 pm
Peter says:
Sexual predators do not go twenty years without one allegation of assault or molestation. Apparently, Smith had multiple victims then none for decades. Can you say, scapegoat?
March 12, 2014, 7:23 am
Michael I from Flushing says:
We trust these people to be the keeper of our faith. All I can say is " why God why " . I pray for the victims . My country ,an the church. If we can't count church to be devine... then all is lost . America will filled with fake Korean churches.
Feb. 20, 3:55 pm

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