Bishops Targeted by Group

By Bill Zajac
The Republican [United States]
July 17, 2006

A national support group for clergy abuse victims wants the Roman Catholic Church to hold accountable bishops credibly accused of sexual abuse, such as former Springfield Bishop Thomas L. Dupre.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in mid-June invited the pope's representative to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, to meet with them when he was in Los Angeles for the U.S. bishops' conference.

Although Sambi didn't respond to the group's invitation, Barbara A. Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, hopes he will do so.

"Our concerns are about bishops like Dupre, who have not faced any accountability by the church," Blaine said.

Eighteen or so bishops have admitted or have been accused of sexual abuse of minors, Blaine said.

"First and foremost, we feel bishops have fallen way short of their responsibility to address sexually abusive priests. But they have not taken any measures regarding situations of where they are accused," Blaine said.

Citing confidentiality, officials at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield have repeatedly refused to disclose Dupre's whereabouts. Also, they have initiated no action against Dupre in the more than two years since he resigned as bishop amid allegations that he abused two minors decades earlier.

Dupre's resignation at age 70 was announced on Feb. 11, 2004 - a day after he was confronted by The Republican with allegations that he sexually abused two boys decades earlier when he was a parish priest. Dupre became the first U.S. bishop indicted on sexual abuse charges when a Hampden County grand jury handed up two indictments of rape against him in September 2004. Almost immediately after the indictments became official, Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett announced the charges could not be pursued because of the statute of limitations.

Diocesan officials say the "Dallas norms," the policy U.S. bishops created in 2002 to protect children from abusive clerics and to punish those credibly accused, doesn't hold bishops accountable for their behavior. It would require the Vatican initiating action against a bishop.

After his resignation, Dupre was indicted on two rape charges, but not prosecuted because the alleged rapes took place outside the statute of limitations for such crimes.

"Not only do parishioners in the diocese have a right to know where Dupre is, but his neighbors wherever he is living and his co-workers if he is working have a right to know that he poses a risk," Blaine said.

A year ago, Peter C. Pollard, the head of the local affiliate of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, delivered a letter to the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, the Springfield diocese's current bishop, asking that he use his political clout to ensure Dupre is kept from access to children.

Blaine said it is hard to understand why U.S. bishops didn't address their own misconduct in the "Dallas norms."

"It could be because they don't want to admit there are allegations against them, or they don't want to establish any accountability if they are accused, or there may be other reasons," Blaine said.

Accused bishops include Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in Wisconsin, Anthony O'Connell of Florida and J. Kendrick Williams in Kentucky.


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