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Priest admits child pornography charges as allegations of further abuse are revealed

Priest admits child pornography charges as allegations of further abuse are revealed

In a letter to the Diocese of Western Massachusetts Friday, the Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher shared new information regarding Gregory Lisby, the priest arrested in September after an FBI investigation into the possession of child pornography. Lisby admitted that charge in court on Friday.

In his letter to the Diocese, Bishop Fisher wrote,

We expect that later today, Lisby will plead guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in federal court in Worcester and will remain in prison awaiting sentencing. In light of this fact, we are conducting a disciplinary process under the canons of our church and taking all required steps to remove him from the Episcopal priesthood. …

As this situation has unfolded, we have also received devastating credible evidence that after he was ordained as a priest in 2007, Lisby sexually abused a teenager. I am deeply saddened to know that a priest is alleged to have committed such a grievous sin, and on behalf of the entire church, I offer my most heartfelt apology to the victim, the victim’s family and to everyone whose trust in the church has been violated.

Fisher wrote that he was making this allegation public in order to promote truth, reconciliation, and healing, and invited anyone with further information to call him confidentially at 413 417 2401.

Bishop Fisher’s letter was shared by the Rt. Rev. Carlye Hughes, Bishop of Newark. Lisby had served in the Diocese of Newark before moving with his family to Western Massachusetts in 2015. Bishop Hughes described the news as “a devastating development in the FBI’s investigation” into Lisby. She wrote further,

At this time, there is no indication of this behavior during the Rev. Lisby’s tenure in this diocese. We have provided assistance, when needed, for staff, lay leaders, and members of these congregations as they respond to this news. We will continue to do so. We will continue to monitor this investigation carefully.

We take the safety of children very seriously in the Diocese of Newark. …

Should anyone have relevant information, please contact the diocesan Intake Officers responsible for receiving reports of clergy misconduct: The Rev. Canon Andrew Wright, Canon to the Ordinary (973-430-9915 or awright@dioceseofnewark.org) or the Rev. Susan Chrystal (908-403-6597 or spchrystal@gmail.com).

Bishop Fisher had suspended Lisby from priestly duties in 2018 over an inappropriate relationship with an adult that did not include sexual contact. Fisher noted in Friday’s letter that Lisby’s husband has filed for divorce. He is “in no way implicated in any of these charges.” Both bishops invited prayers for him and the couple’s children, and all children and families affected by child pornography and other abuse, as well as for Lisby.

Read Bishop Hughes and Bishop Fisher’s letters in full here. The Worcester Telegram reports on the case here.

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Eric Bonetti
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Eric Bonetti

Unfortunately, far too often diocesan officials prefer to brush off clergy misconduct or deal with it in secret. Indeed, here in DioVA, the diocese has said in writing, with Susan Goff’s approval, that lying under oath is only actionable under Title IV if criminal charges are brought.

TEC is in a sad way if that is the litmus test for clergy misconduct.

Meanwhile, kudos to +Fisher for transparency at a difficult time.

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Eric Bonetti
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Eric Bonetti

Unfortunately, diocesan officials all too often prefer to brush allegations aside, dismiss them out of hand, or deal with the matter in secrecy, not understanding that failure to disclose prevents healing.

Indeed, here in DioVA, the diocese has said in writing that it will only look into clergy misconduct if criminal charges are brought. Truly, TEC is in a sorry state if that is the litmus test needed to invoke Title IV.

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