Boston priest accused of misconduct in Charleston

CHARLESTON — A priest from the Archdiocese of Boston has been charged by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office with committing a lewd act on a minor. The offense is alleged to have occurred more than 24 years ago at Church of the Nativity on James Island.

Father James Nyhan had served as an associate at Nativity from June 1979 to June 1980 while on a leave of absence from the Boston archdiocese. The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office reports the victim was 13 years old at the time when the alleged acts occurred. Nyhan served temporarily for only one year in the Diocese of Charleston.

Nyhan, 58, of Ipswich, Mass., surrendered to Charleston County sheriff’s detectives Nov. 6. The magistrate set bond at $10,000 and ordered Nyhan to obtain a mental health evaluation. He was also given permission to leave the state. Nyhan posted bail and was expected to return to Massachusetts.

The Archdiocese of Boston had already suspended Nyhan from active ministry in June 2002 after a man accused him of repeatedly molesting him in the 1970s, according to a report in The Boston Globe. The paper also stated that a previous investigation into a separate allegation against the priest was closed after his accuser recanted.

Maria Aselage, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Charleston, said, “The victim first came forward to diocesan officials in 1994 to report the allegation. Diocesan officials then contacted the solicitor’s office in Charleston and the Archdiocese of Boston to advise them of the allegation.”

When the victim approached officials at the Diocese of Charleston in 1994, Nyhan was serving as a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Post and Courier published an article Nov. 7 in which the victim’s attorney, Jack Sinclaire of Charleston, said the Diocese of Charleston did not give his client an opportunity to make a formal statement in 1994.

According to Aselage, diocesan officials made arrangements for the victim to obtain mental health counseling upon his request.

“The Diocese of Charleston is confident that it did everything possible for the victim when he first reported the allegation in 1994,” Aselage said. “We already had a sexual misconduct policy in place and were reaching out with pastoral care and concern to the victim. We will continue to pray for healing for all involved.”