Sacred Heart Church in Pittsfield

The Rev. Francis Lawlor, who administers the Sacred Heart Parish at 191 Elm St. in Pittsfield, has been placed on administrative leave by the Springfield Diocese.

PITTSFIELD — A Pittsfield priest has been placed on leave by the Springfield Diocese, for reasons explained as a “private legal matter.”

The Catholic church posted a statement to its website Sunday, saying that the duties of the Rev. Francis Lawlor of Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield have been transferred to a pastor at a neighboring parish.

The step was announced to the Sacred Heart Parish community at Masses held over the weekend. The action first was reported by MassLive.

According to the MassLive account, Lawlor faces a charge in Central Berkshire District Court of “open and gross lewdness” stemming from a May incident outside an Elm Street sandwich shop. Lawlor reportedly was urinating on a bush and told police who responded that he urgently needed to empty his bladder. The case in district court is pending.

Reached on Monday by The Eagle, Lawlor declined to comment.

The church said in its announcement Sunday that Lawlor’s duties as administrator, including pastoral care, have been reassigned on a temporary basis to Msgr. Michael Shershanovich of St. Joseph Parish in Pittsfield. The church is located at 191 Elm St.

The church’s bulletin for Sunday, already available on the parish’s website, includes a message saying that Lawlor is on leave “pending the outcome of a personal legal matter.”

The action was taken by Worcester Bishop Robert McManus, who is serving temporarily as the diocese’s apostolic administrator.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.