Priest faces new claims

ALBANY — A 74-year-old Greene County priest cleared six years ago of allegations that he sexually abused a minor has been placed on administrative leave as new claims of abuse are investigated, the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese said Saturday.

The Rev. Jeremiah Nunan, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Cairo and Our Lady of Knock Mission in East Durham, will be barred from officiating at any sacraments, wearing clerical garb or presenting himself as a priest, according to a statement from the diocese. The action was scheduled to be announced at weekend Masses at the two parishes.

The diocese acted after a civil lawsuit was filed claiming that Nunan sexually abused one individual for 15 years. The alleged abused occurred between 1996 and 2003, when the alleged victim was a minor, and from 2007 and 2011, when the individual was an adult. The lawsuit named as defendants Nunan, one of the parishes and the diocese. Nunan could not be reached for comment Saturday. The diocese, which has referred the allegations to the Greene County district attorney’s office, said that Nunan has denied the allegations.

“This case will be reviewed just as we have reviewed all other cases,” said Ken Goldfarb, a diocese spokesman.

In 2006, Nunan was placed on leave after allegations surfaced that he molested a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That case began after a California priest, Rev. Mark Jaufmann, accused Nunan of abusing him for about three years, starting in 1967, when Jaufmann was 9. Nunan was serving at St. Mary’s Church in Hudson at the time.

An 11-month investigation by the diocese’s Independent Mediation Assistance Program concluded those claims could not be substantiated. Nunan was then restored to the ministry.

Nunan’s leave comes as the diocese has recently been criticized by prosecutors who have raised questions about its handling of sexual abuse cases.

In February, 14 district attorneys whose counties are within the diocese signed a proposed memorandum of understanding asking the diocese to revamp its procedures for handling sex abuse complaints.

The memorandum, signed in March by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, said the diocese’s current practices are problematic and sought to look into whether church leaders had at one time protected accused priests.

News of the allegations against Nunan comes just two days after the diocese said a former janitor at a Catholic elementary school in Albany may have sexually abused at least one boy there in the 1970s.

In a brief statement, the diocese said it “has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of children by clerics. Any priest or deacon against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is substantiated at any time is permanently removed from ministry.”

Nunan joined the Albany diocese in 1963 after graduating from a seminary in Ireland, and has served at St. Henry’s in Averill Park, St. Mary’s in Little Falls, Assumption parish in Latham, St. Mary’s in Hudson, and as chaplain for the Columbia Memorial Hospital School for Nursing.

The Albany Diocese urges anyone who as a child was sexually abused by a Catholic priest or deacon to report the matter to a law enforcement agency or to the diocese.