MARBLEHEAD — A retired Episcopal priest from Marblehead has been removed from the priesthood after a church investigation into allegations that he abused children in separate incidents 20 years apart.
Franklin E. Huntress Jr., 77, voluntarily resigned rather than face a church trial conducted by officials of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, a diocese official said. Bishop Thomas Shaw officially removed Huntress from the priesthood on Feb. 11.
Church members at St. Michael's in Marblehead and Church of the Holy Name in Swampscott, where Huntress has served in his retirement, were notified of the decision after church services this month.
"The churches are reeling from this," the Rev. Canon Mally Lloyd of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts said. "It's really hard on people."
Huntress declined to comment, referring questions to the diocese.
"I'll leave it all in their hands," he said. "I have nothing to say."
The investigation into Huntress began after Bishop Shaw's office received a complaint last October from a person who reported being sexually abused as a child by Huntress in 1974. Lloyd said she does not know where the abuse allegedly occurred.
An investigation by Shaw's office into that allegation uncovered the fact that Huntress had been arrested on charges of child sexual abuse in England in 1994, Lloyd said.
Lloyd said no charges were filed against Huntress in that case because the family did not want the child to testify. But church investigators concluded the allegations were true after reading the police report and speaking to the officers involved, Lloyd said.
At that point, Huntress was given a choice of facing further investigation and a church trial or resigning his priesthood. He chose to resign, Lloyd said. After a three-day period when Huntress could have changed his mind, Shaw "deposed" Huntress, removing him from the priesthood.