Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Church hit on accountability

Church hit on accountability
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
By STEPHANIE BARRY
Springfield Republican

SPRINGFIELD - A spokesman for the Roman Catholic church rebuffed a call to control the movements of Bishop Thomas L. Dupre, who fled Springfield for a Maryland treatment center after being confronted with abuse allegations in 2004.

A victims' advocacy group on Tuesday announced that Dupre, who served as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield before fleeing, has taken up residence at a Catholic retirement home in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Members of Survivors of those Abused by Priests denounced the move as tantamount to letting a "serial predator" move about unfettered.

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"We're concerned and we'd like him to be returned to a more secure facility," said member William Nash, who appears as spokesman for the group at its frequent press conferences in front of the chancery on Elliot Street.

In response, diocese spokesman Mark E. Dupont said, "First, I'd like to know what U.S. law there is that allows the Catholic church to imprison people."

Secondly, Dupont said, ancient laws established by the Vatican mandate that no one but the pope has authority to discipline a bishop, and those proceedings are secret.

The Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, who now serves as bishop of the Springfield diocese, has said Dupre is "fully retired" and no longer in public ministry. However, it is unclear whether that transition was voluntary.

A call to the retirement home went unreturned. Dupre's lawyer, Michael O. Jennings, declined comment.

Dupre abruptly retired and essentially disappeared after being confronted by The Republican with molestation accusations in 2004. He was indicted on rape charges the same year by a Hampden County grand jury, but avoided prosecution as the abuse occurred many years earlier and the statute of limitations had run out.

Dupre fled after allegations surfaced that he had abused two young boys when he was a parish priest in Holyoke in the 1970s. He has since reached out-of-court settlements with both men.

The prelate ducked public ramifications of the scandal by retreating to the treatment center for priests in Silver Spring, Md., for more than three years.

Dupre has rebuffed repeated requests to make a public statement at the advice of his lawyer, leaving his former diocese to manage the fallout.

He recently was subject to a videotaped deposition in connection with a civil lawsuit questioning his supervision over other abusive priests. Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski, who represents the plaintiffs, said Dupre invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself throughout the inquiry.

Jennings has filed a motion in court to block any public release of the videotaped interview. That motion is pending.

Dupont said he wishes the diocese did not have a kind of default ownership of the Dupre scandal, given canon law and the prelate's silence. The spokesman said the enduring attention paid to Dupre's departure takes away from the local church's efforts to repair and fend off abuse.

"Revisiting this painful chapter in our history, may be important to some, but in a practical sense does little to prevent future abuse, which is addressed by the efforts we have long ago undertaken and for which we remain firmly committed," Dupont said.

Join the conversation Here's what masslive.com users had to say about the church's decision: "... I do not think all priests are bad. I know some good ones. The Catholic Church must make up its mind whether it wants to protect some criminals, or if it wants to make a clean break and save its religion from extinction. If it does the former, it'll be extinct in 50 years. If it chooses the later, it can survive. If the hierarchy doesn't do the right thing it's up to the laity. Do not attend Mass, and let your pastor know why. Send empty envelopes to the Catholic charities and the like, and include a letter as to why you aren't sending money. They'll get the message because they can't survive without donations. ..." Galileo_Galilei "Can anyone possibly explain how and why the Catholic church continues to be able to stonewall law enforcement? Are there really THAT MANY loopholes that let priests get away with these crimes for decades? As a Catholic, this makes me angry as well as sick to my stomach. No wonder our parishes are dying and people don't give to Catholic Charities!" ovenmaster Want to learn more? Visit www.masslive.com/howto to set up an account and post your thoughts

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