Rev. Abdelahad may have resumed duties
PASTOR WAS CONVICTED OF ASSAULT
WORCESTER — The Rev. Charles M. Abdelahad, who took a voluntary leave of absence as pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral last year after being charged with sexually assaulting a female parishioner, may have returned to his ministerial duties.
Officials with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said today that parishioners of St. George’s have told them that they have seen Rev. Abdelahad working with choir members and taking part in worship services at Antiochian churches in Dedham and Norwood.
“Why take the risk? That’s the question that Orthodox Church officials and members must ask themselves about Father Abdelahad,” said David O’Regan, an official with the Worcester chapter of SNAP. “Why let him be around vulnerable adults in a church setting, given his conviction on charges of assault and battery.”
Rev. Abdelahad was sentenced to serve 90 days of a two-year jail term at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction after being convicted in May of abusing a 45-year-old woman during counseling sessions held over a three-year period at the Anna Street church.
He was specifically found guilty of one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a shod foot) and one count of assault and battery for biting her. Eight other charges were dismissed.
Rev. Abdelahad was scheduled to remain incarcerated until Aug. 28 but was released 15 days earlier because of good behavior.
Mr. O’Regan said the priest was spotted at St. George Antiochan Church in Norwood and St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church in Dedham.
He said Rev. Abdelahad — wearing clerical garb — has been seen singing with the choirs and taking part in worship service in an area around the altar that is restricted to priests.
“We think he and church officials are testing the waters,” said Mr. O’Regan. “The next thing he’ll be doing is giving homilies and distributing Communion.”
He said SNAP objects to the priest’s return to ministry because the victim “deserves some peace of mind” and out of concern about other women in the churches who may be around Rev. Abdelahad.
“For this convicted, violent criminal to have any title or position or appearance of power and legitimacy is problematic,” said Mr. O’Regan.
He said sex offenders take advantage of any role they are given to get close to other victims.
“They use any position or title they have to prove to doubters that they’ve been ‘cleared’ or ‘rehabilitated.’ After conviction, they often take ‘baby steps’ to win back power and prestige, and sometimes end up in even more exalted positions than they already had,” he said.
SNAP called on church officials to deny the convicted priest any role in church life.
Church officials could not be reached for comment.
The events surrounding Rev. Abdelahad has caused a rift at the local church between supporters and opponents.