Dupre Accused of Abuse

By Bill Zajac
Springfield [MA] Republican
February 11, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - The Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre resigned as bishop of the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese today, a day after The Republican confronted him with accusations that he sexually abused two minor boys three decades ago when he was a priest.

The bishop cited health reasons for his departure at age 70 and did not address the allegations first brought by the mother of one of the boys in a letter to the bishop last year. The mother, a longtime diocesan school worker, said her letter arrived at the bishop's residence weeks before he told The Republican last year he might retire earlier than the mandatory retirement age of 75 because of heart and other health problems.

The diocese did not respond to the allegations yesterday. Spokesman Mark Dupont said he delivered them in a confidential message to the bishop Tuesday; the bishop was hospitalized hours later. Dupont has asked The Republican to send the allegations again to the diocese.

The Republican first received an anonymous tip on the allegations over a year ago and has spent months conducting interviews in an attempt to corroborate the allegations. The mother's name is being withheld because her son does not want to press charges.

The Rev. James J. Scahill, who has publicly criticized Dupre's handling of clergy sexual abuse issues, said he has counseled the woman and that he has tried to help her son.

The newspaper sent a series of detailed questions to the bishop through a spokesman Tuesday after attempts to discuss the issue with the bishop in person failed. The newspaper's questions came amid a flurry of public speaking engagements in which Dupre was urging Catholics to support a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriages.

Dupre's resignation comes following two years of diocesan problems related to clergy sexual abuse in the diocese and elsewhere in the Catholic Church.

The diocesan statement on Dupre's retirement said he had already been taken to an undisclosed medical facility and could not be reached for comment.

Dupre allegedly sexually abused two minors beginning around the 1970s, according to the mother of one of the victims. The other alleged victim, who lives out of state, could not be reached for comment.

Scahill said he tried to follow the newly created U.S. bishops' policy for the protection of children and report the abuse in November to Catholic Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, the head of the state's conference of bishops.

O'Malley never returned Scahill's call, in which he said he expressed an urgency with regard to the health of the Springfield Church. Scahill has publicly challenged the Springfield Diocese on its financial support of convicted child molester Richard R. Lavigne of Chicopee, who was recently defrocked after he was accused over the years of molesting about 30 minors.

Scahill said Dupre's resignation raises new questions about all decisions Dupre made regarding clergy sexual abuse.

"The close of his episcopacy should not lead to the closure of an investigation of some very unhealthy decisions he has made regarding these issues. ... It would more fully explain why he has been all too cozy with abusers and has not shown the heart of Christ to victims," said Scahill.

The diocese did not mention the allegations at a press conference on the bishop's retirement yesterday.

Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk, who will run the diocese on a day-to-day basis until an acting administrator is chosen from within the diocese, said Dupre's sense of fairness was among his most important contributions to the diocese.

"I think it is his personal sense of fairness. He was always trying to be fair to everyone," said Sniezyk of Dupre's contributions.

Sniezyk made the comments before he learned of the allegations.


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