Sunday, January 12, 2003

Yonkers parish wants priest back.

Lennon was one of six priests removed from their assignments by the Archdiocese of New York so church officials could clear up old accusations of sexual abuse against the priests. Parishioners at St. John the Baptist, stunned, believed the matter would be dealt with quickly and their pastor returned.

After all, the archdiocese investigated an allegation against Lennon in 1998 and cleared him.

Nine months later, there is no news. The archdiocese, as required by the Catholic Church's new national policy on sex abuse, has appointed a review board to study its abuse cases and make recommendations to Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York.

But parish leaders at St. John the Baptist are tired of waiting.

Vincent Vanadia, president of the parish council, is leading a minor parish insurrection, demanding Lennon's name be cleared. On recent Sundays, he has inserted into the parish bulletin open letters critical of the archdiocese's treatment of Lennon.

On Monday, the parish council decided it would not celebrate the church's 100th anniversary this year unless Lennon is part of it.

"Celebrating the anniversary without Father Lennon would be like going to his funeral," Vanadia said. "Here's the thing: If the church had something on him, why haven't they acted by now? If they don't have anything on him, then shame on them for disgracing this man."

Lennon, who turns 75 on Jan. 20, wrote a letter to Egan last month in which he maintained his innocence and insisted on being returned to his parish by Christmas. But he remains at a home in Maine, where he has stayed since his suspension.

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