CENTRAL NEW YORK: Retired priest suspended for sexual abuse

August 14, 2007

A retired Skaneateles, New York, Episcopal priest who ran for the New York state Assembly last year has been suspended for sexually abusing four adolescent boys while serving as rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Skaneateles from January 1986 to May 1993.

James Edward Putnam, 66, was suspended from acting as a priest for 20 years after a diocesan investigation, according to a statement from the Rev. Karen C. Lewis, assistant to Diocese of Central New York Bishop Gladstone "Skip" Adams.

The statement is available here.

“Ed Putnam is a man whom the Church entrusted with the care of its youth and to whom the Church granted authority as a priest to lead this faith community,” Adams said in the statement. “Through his actions he has abused and betrayed that trust and he has harmed those entrusted to his care. His behavior is reprehensible and is not tolerated in this Church.”

Adams received a complaint of abuse in May and initiated the diocese’s Pastoral Response Team to investigate the allegations, according to Lewis’ statement. During the investigation, Putnam was temporarily inhibited. As a result of the investigation, four individuals have filed affidavits describing the abuse that occurred while they were adolescents, according to the statement. The victims, their families, and the congregation, will continue to be provided opportunities for pastoral and psychological care, the diocese said.

Adams apologized to the victims, their families, and the congregation of St. James’ during a meeting on the evening of August 13 for the hurt Putnam caused.

“We may wonder how this all fits in God’s plan; we may ask why this happened in our church and in our community; and we may wonder if the pain of this betrayal will ever disappear -- I have faith that we will see the effect of God’s reconciling grace in and through one another,” he said.

The 20-year suspension, which was effective July 23, can be extended at the discretion of the bishop or his successor, Lewis told the Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard newspaper August 13.

Putnam’s tenure at the Skaneateles church immediately preceded that of Adams, who was elected bishop in 2001. Putnam went from St. James to be dean of the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, New York. He also served as interim dean of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Syracuse beginning in 2003 and in other parishes in New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island. He retired from active ministry in 2004.

Lewis told the newspaper that diocesan officials informed New York State Police and the other dioceses where Putnam ministered of the accusations.

Putnam served as chaplain to the New York State Assembly from 1993 to 1997. In November 2006, he ran unsuccessfully against William Barclay, R-Pulaski, who won a third term representing the 124th Assembly District.

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