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Deposition of Fr. James J. Scahill

Susan F. Morris vs. Richard Lavigne, Joseph Maguire, Robert Thrasher and Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield

[Part 2: Cross Examination by Philip Callan]

http://www.masslive.com/news/church/index.ssf?/news/church/scahill.html
Posted on MassLive.com 10/29/03

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Hampden Superior Court C.A. No. 03-241

APPEARANCES:

STOBIERSKI & STOBIERSKI
377 Main Street, Greenfield, Massachusetts 01301, representing the Plaintiff.
BY: JOHN STOBIERSKI, ESQUIRE DANIELLE BARSHAK, ESQUIRE

EGAN, FLANAGAN AND COHEN, P.C.
67 Market Street, P.O. Box 9035, Springfield, Massachusetts 01102, representing the Defendants Joseph MaGuire, Robert Thrasher and Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
BY: JOHN J. EGAN, ESQUIRE EDWARD J. MCDONOUGH JR., ESQUIRE

DOHERTY, WALLACE, PILLSBURY & MURPHY, P.C.
One Monarch Place, Suite 1900, 1414 Main Street, Springfield, Massachusetts 01144, representing the Defendants Joseph MaGuire, Robert Thrasher and Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
BY: PHILIP J. CALLAN JR., ESQUIRE, MICHAEL CALLAN, ESQUIRE

MARY E. MCNALLY, ESQUIRE
1350 Main Street, Springfield, Massachusetts 01103, representing James J. Scahill.

STIPULATIONS

It is agreed by and between the parties that all objections, except objections as to the form of the question, are reserved to be raised at the time of trial for the first time.

It is further agreed by and between the parties that all motions to strike un-responsive answers are also reserved to be raised at the time of trial for the first time.

It is further agreed that the deponent will read and sign the deposition and that the filing of the said deposition will be waived.

It is further agreed by and between the parties that notification to all parties of the receipt of the original deposition transcript is also hereby waived.

JAMES J. SCAHILL, Deponent, having been first duly sworn, deposes and says as follows:

CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR. CALLAN

Q. Father Scahill, good afternoon. My name is Attorney Phil Callan. I represent the Diocese of Springfield and Bishop Dupre, Bishop MaGuire and in some cases Father Robert Thrasher in defense of certain lawsuits that have been brought. I want to ask a few questions of you today. The last point that Attorney Stobierski inquired about from you was how one might go about establishing, first of all, that statements were made that you suggest were made; would you agree that that's an important consideration?

A. Absolutely.

Q. And would you agree that an important determination of whether a statement was made that you believe you heard would be to inquire of other persons present at that same time to determine what they heard and if it was the same or different, if they heard anything at all; would you agree with that?

A. Bishop did that. I don't agree with that. Such a statement, if I had made it, I would recall. I would not need to ask if I had made such a statement.

Q. So it's your testimony that you do not believe that it would be important to determine from others present on the same occasion what they heard and whether it was consistent with what you suggest you heard or consistent with what Bishop Dupre states was made by way of a statement; is that your testimony, sir?
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection.
THE WITNESS: I think - I think it would be certainly important for Bishop Dupre to try to substantiate that he never said such a thing.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) And in order to determine whether you were correct or he was correct, would it be of some importance to determine what others recollect from that event?
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection.
THE WITNESS: Bishop Dupre knows what he said. Father Scahill knows what he said. Every priest present knows what he said. And in November they know what I said and they know what he said.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) I am focusing for this moment on the meeting of March 2002; do you understand that, sir?

A. February or March of 2002.

Q. February, March 2002 or thereabouts, one of the first meetings of the Presbyteral Council year; is that so?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now, you've indicated to us I believe, Father Scahill, that the meetings normally were held in a conference room at the Chancery building in Springfield, the Pastoral Center?

A. Mm-hmm.

Q. And for old timers like myself that would have been one of the buildings of Cathedral High School, was it not?

A. The old Beaven building, yes.

Q. Do you recall being at Presbyteral Council meetings prior to the one in question?

A. I believe I was there January at the very first one. That could be substantiated by way of a review of the minutes because they do take the roll.

Q. It would indicate who was present at a particular meeting. And are the meetings always held in that same room?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. Are there seats assigned to the different members of the council? A. No. You sit, you know, you can sit wherever you want but it's a strange habit that we all seem to have when we go to church, we end up drifting to a certain seat.

Q. It's a little bit like the habit that one has sitting around the dinner table with your family, on occasions you tend to sit in the same location or next to the stove or TV or whatever. And where did Bishop Dupre, where did he sit at these meetings?

A. Well, if this were the table Bishop Dupre is right there. Monsignor Sniezyk is down at that end and the priests are dispersed. And for whatever reason because of that location situation I am usually in this or this chair from him there.

Q. Now, you point at the head of table, which today happens to be an empty chair, and that would be one end of the table that Bishop Dupre would sit at, correct?

A. This side of the room and Monsignor Sniezyk was down at this side of the room.

Q. What role does Monsignor Sniezyk play?

A. He's like the chair of the Presbyteral Council.

Q. And you've indicated the side of the table as Bishop Dupre would be sitting, you would be on the left side of the table; am I correct?

A. Most times, I think almost all times I'm here, yeah.

Q. And this particular meeting in which this discretion took place that's the heart of this proceeding today, where were you seated that day?

A. I can't precisely remember. I can because maybe it's closer to now than February, March, I can remember where I was seated in November or December of last year and that definitely was I think where Mary McNally is sitting or where I am sitting because I know when I asked the rhetorical question we were very, very near at hand.

Q. I'd like to focus and continue focusing for the moment on that February or March 2000 (sic) meeting; do you understand that, Father Scahill?

A. 2002, yes.

Q. And what is your best memory as to where you were seated at that meeting?

A. I would suggest that I probably was on this side of the table because I think I would drift this way.

Q. Were you seated closest to the bishop on that side of the table? A. I never have the closest seat to the bishop.

Q. So your answer to my question is what, Father Scahill?

A. No.

Q. And how many priests were between you and the bishop at the head of the table on that side of the table?

A. In the February, March meeting as I've mentioned earlier, Attorney Callan, I can't recall exactly where I was sitting.

Q. What's your best approximation?

A. I'm always drifting this end so maybe I was the fourth one down. I wasn't way down that end.

Q. So on the opposite side of the table, the table upon which Mr. Stobierski and I are seated today, there would be three priests on that side of the table also closer to Bishop Dupre than you were on that day; is that not true?

A. Probably.

Q. So of the - how many were present altogether of the priests?

A. I wouldn't remember. I could have looked at my minutes and given that back to you exactly by noting the roll call but between, usually about a dozen, maybe.

Q. And would it be fair to say that from that approximate number that you were about in the middle of the table on one side?

A. Well, if there are seats that tend to be left vacant they tend to be down this side. (Indicating)

Q. Well, approximately seven on each side of the table, Father Scahill?

A. Approximately.

Q. So you would have been approximately halfway down on one side?

A. I've already testified that I would probably be in the second or third seat.

Q. I thought you said third or fourth but maybe I misheard?

A. No. I don't know.

Q. Is it fair to say, Father Scahill, that about half the priests in that meeting were closer to Bishop Dupre than you were?

A. No.

Q. What is true?

A. I again say that I know precisely I was sitting in the second or third seat in November - Excuse me. In February or March I could have been in the second, third or fourth seat but I have no recall to that, sir.

Q. All right.

A. But I know at this point in my life I have excellent hearing.

Q. I didn't ask that question.

A. I sought it to be said.

Q. Pardon?

A. I sought it to be said.

Q. Okay. In any event, Father Scahill, either two or four or six priests were closer to Bishop Dupre than you were on that occasion; isn't that so?

A. That would be fine.

Q. And Vernon Decoteau, Father Vernon Decoteau who takes the minutes, where does he sit?

A. He sits, frankly, nowhere - not right up close to Bishop Dupre. He's usually over here about maybe one down from where I am or -

Q. So Father Decoteau who takes the minutes sits -

A. Is not in the first or second chair. He's in either the third or fourth normally.

Q. So people addressing the group have to speak loud enough for Father Decoteau to pick up what is being discussed at that far end of the table; is that not so?
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection.
THE WITNESS: I don't think you ever have to speak loud to be heard because you're listening.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) And do you recall the names or identity of any of the persons either on your side of the table or on the opposite side of the table who were sitting closer to Bishop Dupre than you were that day?

A. I believe Father George Farland usually has Mr. McDonough's seat. Q. And that would be the seat, just for this record because she can't take that down, that would be the seat on your side of the table closest to Bishop Dupre?

A. Yes, that tends to be where he drifts.

Q. Do you recall anyone else, Father Scahill?

A. I think Father David Joyce would be over there, maybe Father Tom Shea was here. (Indicating)

Q. Again, you are pointing. You have to clarify for the record?

A. Second or third chair Father David Joyce but again this is to the best of my recollection, sir.

Q. Absolutely. But it is to the best of your recollection that Father David Joyce and Father George Farland on the opposite side of the table were both closer to Bishop Dupre than you were?

A. Yes, because they are both vicars for religious. They both hold important posts in the Diocese in the thinking of Bishop Dupre.

Q. And do you recall anyone else, sir, who would have been on your side of table or on the opposite side of the table where I am closer to the Bishop Dupre on that day?

A. I'm really sorry, I can't focus in on that for you.

Q. You indicated at the latter part of the questioning by Attorney Stobierski that you haven't spoken to any of the other priests who were at that meeting as to what they may have recalled?

A. No, I have not, sir.

Q. Now, you make that statement to us today under oath, Father Scahill, don't you, with regard both to recent events in the fall of 2003 and to those immediate events right after the meeting in February, March 2002, that you never spoke about this with any person who was at that meeting, did you, sir?

A. I don't understand your question.

Q. You've made certain suggestions as to words used by Bishop Dupre at that meeting and you suggest that they're true, do you not?

A. I do. I know they're true.

Q. My question to you is this -

A. I think I've just picked it up.

Q. Let me put the question to you so it's on the record.

A. Okay.

Q. Have you ever discussed it with any other person who was at that meeting on that same day as you?

A. No, because in February or March I rolled with it. I rolled with it. We did what we did in June. We don't meet for the summer so I never went back to the February, March meeting informally or formally with a priest. I did what I did in November or December, as I said, to put them, especially bishop, on notice that I heard what I heard and I know what I know. And I have not revisited that until this month when nothing was mentioned. And I found that perplexing because the Diocese had every opportunity to mention that there had been indications that records were lost or missing. And when that was not done in light of the fact of what Bishop Dupre did say in February or March, in light of how he responded to me in November or December, that was unnerving.

Q. Well, it's somewhat unnerving to me, too, that you never spoke with anyone at any time about words that struck you as inappropriate at that time -
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection.
THE WITNESS: I spoke -

Q. (By Mr. Callan) Let me finish. Is that a fact, sir?

A. I spoke to Sister Mary. I spoke to Father Soranno. I spoke to Mr. Mason.

Q. You never spoke with any person that was in attendance at that meeting as to what you believe you said at any time before today; is that your testimony, sir?

A. I didn't say anything at the February, March meeting. I just listened.

Q. Is it your testimony you never spoke with any of these other priests who were at that meeting on that same day at any time before today in the last year-and-a-half of time?

A. I can only -

Q. What's your answer, Father Scahill?

A. I would say that I don't think so.

Q. Thank you. I'll go on to my next question.

A. I would hasten to add -
MR. STOBIERSKI: He's entitled to answer that.
MR. CALLAN: No, he was asked a yes or no question. You can ask the questions you want, Mr. Stobierski.
THE WITNESS: No problem.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) Did you receive the minutes each month you attended those meetings?

A. I did.

Q. Did you read the minutes?

A. I did.

Q. Did you ever suggest either off the record or on the record that the minutes be amended in any way to reflect what you now say was stated at that meeting?

A. I did not because I was still in the box in February, March and I knew that they would never be put in print. And when I asked the rhetorical question, it didn't have to be put in print because they heard me ask it. And I would go to something now if I can -

Q. What box were you in in February, March 2002?

A. I call it the clerical box.

Q. Why?

A. Because of the fact I let it roll. Had that been mentioned in November, December -

Q. No, I'm talking about February, March 2002; why were you in a box then, sir?

A. Because I was still the product of my conditioning and I will go, since you opened the door, sir, where you are trying to have me remember where people sit, where you are trying to suggest that I misheard or didn't hear, you are also now trying to suggest that there's a priest or two who could come forward that would say I begged them to support me. I begged them to corroborate what I had to say and I did not do that. But there are priests out there, because one of them, Monsignor Leo Leclerc, came the closest in the articles to lie. Bishop Dupre has not called me a liar. Bishop Dupre even discussed so as to cover what he did say, admitted talking about Weldon destroying personal effects to a bunch of men in February or March of 2002. He has admitted to that. What person talks in a formal meeting about what a dead bishop did with his stuff 20 years ago? Because Bishop Dupre cannot lie. He is not an evil man. He is being forced, I believe, to do evil things because that's how bad this church has gotten hierarchically. And Monsignor Leclerc -

Q. Can we get to my question after all that?

A. But I'm just saying I think Bishop Dupre and Monsignor Leclerc are the best of friends and many of us will do almost anything for the best of friends. I've had no conversation with Monsignor Leclerc or Monsignor Sniezyk or any of these people about trying to corroborate. I thought and I had hoped, Mr. Callan, that when I did what I did this month that at least one of them would have been honorable enough to corroborate the truth.

Q. Now, my question. Why do you say you were in a box in February, March 2002?

A. Even if our fifties, sir, we can, if we permit ourselves, grow. I would never in November, September, October of 2002 let that statement go unchallenged.

Q. What's that got to do with February, March 2002?

A. I didn't challenge it and six months later, sir, I certainly would have.

Q. So in February, March 2002 you were still friends with a number of these priests who were on that council and sitting there with you, were you not?

A. I have in this world probably two or three friends because I use that word tightly. I try to be a friendly person. I try to be a friendly person. I have friendly acquaintances. I do not socialize with priests. I'm not in any kind of a big group of priests. I'm not a groupie. I'm sort of a reclusive type person actually, an introvert, so I'm not really - I'm just friendly. You see, I wouldn't count all these priests friends and now former friends. I was friendly with them; they were friendly with me and there's a difference between friendliness and friendship.

Q. And you never inquired of any of them, any of the priests -

A. To the best of my recollection -

Q. Please?
MS. MCNALLY: Let him finish.
THE WITNESS: I thought he was done.
MS. MCNALLY: Yeah, I know, but he's not so.
THE WITNESS: I'm sorry.
MR. CALLAN: I sometimes ask long questions.
THE WITNESS: I'm sorry.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) And you never have inquired of any of those priests what they heard at that meeting in February, March 2002; is that so? A. To the very best of my recollection, no.

Q. Even back then when it was still swirling around in your mind what you thought you heard, you never asked any of those priests what they heard?

A. No, I just talked to Joe Soranno and then eventually Mary McGeer. Q. And to your knowledge has Father Joe Soranno ever asked any of those priests what they recall they heard?

A. No, no, he hasn't.

Q. So your statements were to Father Soranno and Father Murphy and Sister Mary McGeer -

A. Sister Mary not until May because I didn't arrive in East Longmeadow until May, but -

Q. In any event, you never spoke with those three individuals until some months after that meeting, did you?

A. No, I spoke that night, sir, with Father Soranno. I know I would have shared that with him because it was rather shattering and shaking news, as I'm sure every priest at that meeting shared it with their colleagues.

Q. Why are you sure of that?

A. Because priests sometimes can be like a bunch of old ladies.

Q. So can't lawyers. Has - Strike that. You've indicated that there was no direct confirmation back to you from any of those priests as to what you believe was said because you've never spoken with them in the months since; is that so?

A. Except at the public meeting in November, December of 2002 when I asked the rhetorical question I asked.

Q. And did any priest at that time confirm what you believe you heard back in February, March of 2002?

A. No priest, including the bishop, denied it.

Q. Did any priest confirm what you said was stated at that meeting by Bishop Dupre?

A. No priest confirmed it. But again, sir, no priest, including the bishop, denied it.

Q. Did you bring up at that meeting - was it September of 2002 you said you brought it up?

A. November, December 2002.

Q. And at that time you asked Bishop Dupre, "Bishop, did Bishop Weldon ever destroy any personnel records?" and he replied in the negative? A. I said, "Is it true that prior to his retirement Bishop Weldon destroyed personal and personnel records?" And he replied, "I would not know about that."

Q. And at that time did you say, "Well, Bishop, didn't you say back in February, March 2002 at the council meeting what you now claim he did say," did you say that?

A. I said to him, sir, I said to him, "Sir, I find that peculiar. In light of the current climate I find it more than peculiar that our bishop does not know when records begin or end or large voids or gaps are obvious." I used the word peculiar, sir, to be a synonym of lie.

Q. Did you reference back to the February, March meeting or not?

A. I did not directly mention back to the February, March meeting, nor did I have to because it was, frankly, a very unintelligent, extremely foolish thing for bishop to have said what he said in February, March of 2002. And once we had our meeting, certainly in July of 2002 when it was clear to him that I was staying the course, that I had not broken my oath of office as a pastor, I was shepherding the concerns of my people, I certainly believe, sir, that he regretted very much that I heard what I heard and I knew what I knew and that's why I gave the man, because I do not dislike him, the opportunity to be reminded that I heard what I heard and I know what I know.

Q. Do you think it's somewhat unusual, Father Scahill, that out of 14 men at that meeting you're the only one that states what you claim you heard was said?
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection. How is he to know what the men at the meeting have said or not said?
THE WITNESS: Well, it was in The Observer. I find it sad.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) Do you find it unusual, sir?

A. I find it unusually sad, yes. And I believe I have mentioned previously that I thought at least one would have been honorable enough to corroborate with the truth.

Q. But you have not sought them out to determine if they want to come forward?

A. No. I was assigned with Father Howard McCormick -

Q. For what reason have you not sought out the 13?

A. I had just hoped, sir. I am not a strategist. I'm running a large parish. Believe it or not, I've got a lot to do. But I had hoped that the likes of Father McCormick, who was my pastor in Lee for four years, who is now retired, would have corroborated with the truth. I simply hoped for that, sir. I thought it would just come.

Q. Have you called Father McCormick?

A. Not before or since. Father McCormick, by the way, covers me for my vacation and hopefully will continue to do so.

Q. Now, in preparation for this deposition today, apart from any discussion you may have had with Ms. McNally which is not part of my concern, have you spoken to Attorney Stobierski or Ms. Barshak?

A. I met with Attorney Stobierski and Ms. Barshak this past Thursday for the first time and I met with them in the company of Attorney McNally.

Q. And what did you discuss at that time?

A. We discussed being deposed. I have never been deposed, sir.

Q. Did you discuss the areas of inquiry?

A. Well, we knew that the central area of inquiry would be the validity - would be my veracity, I guess. That I did hear what I heard and I did - I tried to - and I also felt it was important that what else was discussed that has come out here was - I found it important to explain who I am and how this - and I know you don't care for the word, maybe there's a better word. If you can give it to me I'll learn from it - how this has all evolved. This is not - this is not something that I shot from my lips or - this is not something that I'm doing because I've got a vendetta against the bishop or against the church. This is a church that I've given close to 30 years of my life to, sir. This is a church where I hope to continue to be a priest. I have nothing to gain except I am who I am and I thank my mother and father for who I am. I have to be at peace with myself and I couldn't not do what I've done despite the cost.

Q. I'm trying to find out what you discussed at this meeting last Thursday.

A. Pretty much as I've said to you, sir. The deposition, what a deposition is like, that - how, you know, the episodes we brought in. I thought it was important to get that out so as to perhaps if this ever goes any place that people could see that there has been a progressive coming to grips with this issue by Jim Scahill.

Q. Why did you need another attorney to tell you what a deposition is like?

A. I looked it up in the dictionary but I knew - I knew a stenographer was going to be here but I honestly didn't know I was going to be the only nonlawyer here so I felt I needed a lawyer to give me a little heads up.

Q. Were you then represented by counsel?

A. Yes.

Q. So why did you need another lawyer to tell you what a deposition was like?

A. Well, he didn't. Ms. McNally told me what a deposition was like. Q. What else was discussed with Mr. Stobierski, the plaintiff's counsel, at that meeting?

A. There was not that much discussed. I asked for the chance to meet Mr. Stobierski. I didn't know he was bringing you but it's been a delight to come to meet you and get to know you a little bit. But I did not want to meet him for the very first time in this horrific day of mine. That's all, I just wanted to meet him. In fact, I've never been in Mrs. McNally's - Ms. McNally's office. Yes, we walked into this room so that my physical presence in this room would not be for the first time today, sir. That's all. It was just to get over some initial things so that I might be a little more comfortable than if I just came into this place for the first time today.

Q. Did you ask for the opportunity to meet with me before the deposition?

A. No, I didn't.

Q. Why not?

A. I thought once would be enough.

Q. Well put. You asked to meet with plaintiff's counsel and you didn't want to meet with counsel for the Diocese before you gave your statement under oath; that's your testimony, isn't it, Father Scahill?
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection.
THE WITNESS: I know, sir - I know, sir -
MR. STOBIERSKI: Let him finish his answer.
THE WITNESS: I know, sir, that you can haul me in and call me in as often as you want. You have the power. I hope you don't but I know the hugeness of this but I'll take it one moment, one day at a time, sir.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) I'll take it one question at a time. You chose to meet with plaintiff's counsel and not with defendants' counsel as well in advance of your deposition, did you not - let me finish my question - did you not, sir?
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection. Asked and answered.
THE WITNESS: Can I ask my attorney to recall how we - why we did this or how -
MR. STOBIERSKI: Father Scahill, if you want to take a break to speak with your attorney you can at any time.
MR. CALLAN: It's a fair question.
THE WITNESS: No. There's nothing secretive about what we're going to come up in response to this. I'm simply saying I didn't put - I didn't see anything wrong with it, sir. I didn't see anything wrong with it. I wasn't being coached.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) You didn't see it as one-sided, did you, sir?

A. No, I didn't, I didn't, sir. What's one-sided is the truth. If you are telling the truth you don't need to be coached. If you are not telling the truth you need as much coaching as you can get.

Q. So you decided to have a coaching meeting before the deposition? MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection.
THE WITNESS: No, you are using my words in -

Q. (By Mr. Callan) You are using those words.
MS. MCNALLY: Now I'll object. Is there some point to this?
MR. CALLAN: Sure.
MS. MCNALLY: What is it?

Q. (By Mr. Callan) Did you call the meeting with Mr. Stobierski?

A. No.

Q. So it was put to you by Attorney Stobierski at his request; is that your understanding?
MR. STOBIERSKI: Objection.
THE WITNESS: It was mentioned to me by Attorney McNally.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) As to who suggested the meeting, Attorney Stobierski or you?

A. I didn't request a meeting. I just wanted to meet him. Yes, I requested a meeting. I just wanted a chance to meet him to get over that initial thing.

Q. Is that the first you ever met Attorney Stobierski?

A. The very first time I've been in his physical presence.

Q. Have you ever spoken to him by phone?

A. Yes.

Q. On how many occasions?

A. If my recollection is accurate - and I ask Mr. Stobierski to verify it if I've spoken to you more often than that - I spoke to him in September right after the convocation.

Q. Of 2002?

A. Right, 2002. I was flabbergasted. I saw his name and I know his name's been in the paper. I was flabbergasted he called me and I wondered why. I returned the call in September of 2002 and I was floored. He told me - and I think it was the Thursday or Friday. We came back from the convocation on Thursday. It was either that very day or maybe it was Friday and he went line for line with everything Bishop Dupre said to me about me in the presence of all the priests. So he told me at that time that he has a cousin who is a priest that was at that meeting and that's why he heard what he heard and he simply said he was sorry that that took place. The next time -

Q. What took place?

A. The assault of my reputation, the rape of my character at the convocation of priests in Maine in September 2002, which has been -

Q. He was referencing the convocation meeting in early fall 2002 as opposed to the meeting we discussed earlier today, February, March 2002?

A. Oh, yeah. I never talked to him about anything concerning the Presbyteral Council meetings or anything like that.

Q. And you spoke to him by telephone on that occasion?

A. I returned his call, yes, by telephone.

Q. Have you ever spoken with him again between that occasion and last Thursday?

A. I don't think I have. I think you called Mr. Mason just before Christmas and clued him in about a victim that needed some money or something, did you not?
MR. STOBIERSKI: I can't answer that.
MR. CALLAN: He can't answer that for you.
THE WITNESS: Oh, I'm sorry. I think there was a link-up there and, frankly, I wish you had given the money. That's what my thought of it was back then. The point is that is the only time. I don't think we've talked since. He can't answer but I don't have a recall of that.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) Have you ever provided any written statements to Attorney Stobierski at any time?

A. No.

Q. Has he ever indicated he was recording any comments or statements given by you?

A. No.

Q. Have any so-called or alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse by anyone ever come to you?

A. Yes.

Q. On what occasion?

A. On what occasion?

Q. On what occasion for the first time, yes. Was it more than one or just once?

A. There were a couple back in 1991. And since - since June of last year there have been probably a half a dozen that have spoken with me in person and I have received several phone calls and I've had phone conversations with several victims.

Q. Let's start with the ones in 1991 if we can; what occurred with regard to those persons?

A. Just coming in and just chatting, coming in and just talking. That's all.

Q. Did you refer any of them to any authorities, either district attorney's office or other office?

A. I told them, in that we were not mandated reporters at the time, I told them they should go to the Diocese or to the police. And I also in some instances told them they should go and get some therapy.

Q. And did you give them any particulars as to where to go and to whom?

A. No, I didn't. I simply said the priest or the Diocese and in some instances; I'm not a therapist. I'm willing to talk, but you sometimes have to take them to another step and there were instances when I encouraged people to go and get some therapy.

Q. And those initial one or two persons, was that before or after the misconduct commission was established?

A. I believe so; it was before because I don't believe the misconduct committee was established prior to 1991.

Q. Did you ever contact anyone in the Diocese about these individuals?

A. No.

Q. Did you ever inform anyone in the Diocese that some individuals had come to you alleging that they had been victims of abuse by priests of the Diocese?

A. I have spoken to that of late.

Q. I'm talking about '91 or '92?

A. Okay. The Diocese never came to me. I was a young pastor. They never came to me asking how I was doing because it was like a hailstorm there for a couple of months. I thought it peculiar the Diocese never came to me. I have a support network of friends and I guess I fed off of their support during those couple of months of some difficult sessions.

Q. I'm trying to establish, Father Scahill, what you did. Was it more than one person back in '91, '92?

A. Yes.

Q. Were these both male victims?

A. Male.

Q. How many were there approximately?

A. Two.

Q. With regard to those two persons that came to you complaining that they had been victims of sexual abuse, other than telling them where they might report in the Diocese or where they might report to the police or criminal authorities, what did you do to those individuals by way of contacting yourself anyone in the Diocese?

A. Well, I gave them time. I apologized in the name of the church and the priests that they claimed. I just tried to be supportive to them. I just tried to help them.

Q. Well, what did you do to report those two names -

A. I didn't report them.

Q. Please let me finish. Let me finish, Father Scahill, and then you may respond fully.

A. I'm sorry.

Q. What did you do, if anything, to report the identity of those persons to the Diocese at that time?

A. These people were struggling with the whole issue. I simply encouraged them to do what I encouraged them to do. What they did or did not do was their choice.

Q. Did you do anything to make the Diocese aware of the existence of these two men?

A. I did not, because they came to me in confidence.

Q. Now, after those first two whom you didn't notify the Diocese about, when is the next victim that came to you at any time after that?

A. That would be after June of 2002.

Q. And how many were there at that time?

A. Over the course of time as I mentioned, sir, about half a dozen physically present to me.

Q. Between June 2002 and today?

A. Right.

Q. And do you have the identity of any of those individuals?

A. I do.

Q. Did you refer any of them to counsel?

A. To lawyers?

Q. Counsel, lawyers, yes.

A. No, I did not.

Q. Did you refer any of them to any of the mandated authorities?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because they were all out. They were all - they've already made accusations. In one instance he's already reached settlement with the Diocese. In the others they are still out. They are among the names that have been in the newspaper.

Q. How do you know that?

A. Because I met them personally.

Q. Do you know if the identities of those - did you say six?

A. I said about a half a dozen.

Q. About six, okay. Not exactly, about six. Did you report any of them to the Diocese?

A. No, I didn't because they are already on record.

Q. Did you report the fact that they had been in contact with you to the Diocese?

A. Why would I do that?

Q. Did you or did you not?

A. Why would I do it?

Q. Did you or did you not?

A. I did not, but why would I do it?

Q. Do you have the identity of all those persons, both those two in 1991 and '92 as well as the approximately six in recent vintage?

A. I will not disclose the names of the people that spoke to me in 1991.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because they have not come forward.

Q. How about the six in more recent time?

A. I don't think it would be harmful to mention because they are - but there again I don't know what service that would achieve because people have a right still to this day to come to a priest without everyone knowing about it.
MS. MCNALLY: Let me have a minute. (Witness and counsel confer.)
THE WITNESS: You know, people have a right to come to see a priest and expect some confidence that they've come to see the priest, but they are not figments of my imagination. To be in their company was draining.

Q. (By Mr. Callan) To you or to them or both?

A. To both.

Q. In answer to my question a few moments ago, sir, do you have the identities of these approximate six individuals who came to you in the last year?

A. I can share them with my attorney.

Q. But just answer. Do you have the identity, do you possess it?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you take any steps to see to it that these individuals received any counseling or assistance of that nature?

A. Some are in counseling. Others I hope will go to counseling. I don't want to be their counselor. But as I think I indicated earlier, you take people where they're at and if I can work with them for a while at step one and then introduce the fact that they've got to go for something more intensive. I've done this for 30 years in many other areas of counseling, not relevant to sexual abuse.

Q. Apart from what you said earlier this afternoon, Father Scahill, do you have any factual evidence of any cover-up by Bishop Weldon at any time of any sexual abuse?

A. I have no factual evidence.

Q. And with - the same question with regard to -

A. Only the statement was factual.

Q. Other than what you said today. And with regard to Bishop Joseph MaGuire, do you have any evidence that he ever covered up any acts of sexual abuse by any priests in this diocese?

A. I have no evidence of that. He was the coadjutor to Bishop Weldon in Bishop Weldon's last year, and then became the bishop immediately after Bishop Weldon, but it would be wrong to speculate.

Q. With regard to Bishop O'Neil, do you have any factual evidence that he ever covered up any acts of sexual abuse in this diocese?

A. That would be known by others than me.

Q. My question was put to you, however. Do you have any factual evidence of any -

A. No.

Q. - cover-up by Bishop O'Neil?

A. No, I do not, sir.

Q. And the same question with regard to Father Robert Thrasher, do you have any factual evidence of any cover-up at any time by Father Robert Thrasher?

A. No.

Q. Do you know Father Thrasher?

A. I do.

Q. Same question, do you have any factual evidence of any cover-up of sexual abuse by Bishop John Marshall?

A. If I had any factual evidence about any cover-up I would have released that factual evidence.

Q. And your response to my question is what, sir?

A. No.

Q. Other than what you disclosed to us today, to Mr. Stobierski and myself, during this questioning, do you have any factual evidence of any cover-up by Bishop Dupre?

A. The statement of February, March indicated a relief that records had been destroyed. What I could glean from that is if one is happy records were destroyed there could in my opinion be an indication that one would not be adverse to destroying records.

Q. My question was, other than what you discussed in questions put to you by Attorney Stobierski and I today, do you have any factual evidence of any cover-up by Bishop Thomas Dupre with regard to acts of sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese?

A. I do not have any factual evidence.

Q. Thank you. Do you have factual evidence of any cover-up of clergy abuse by anyone else in the Diocese of Springfield at any time?

A. No, I do not.

Q. At the convocation in September 2002 - let me find my notes if I might, Father Scahill - you stated that that occurred in Maine; was that a retreat type convocation?

A. Well, like it was supposed to be trying to give a spiritual twist to this whole situation that we're under, and it - I don't think it achieved its purpose, because there was an awful lot of just media bashing and complaining and all that stuff by the facilitators of the program, who happened to be the director of the Saint Luke Institute, which has been brought into some question with regards to their expertise in finality as regards to how this was all handled.

Q. Where was the convocation held?

A. Ogunquit, Maine, The Cliff House, very nice.

Q. Nice place to be there, wasn't it?

A. It was not pleasant to be at that convocation, I assure you, sir. Q. The place, the place?

A. The place was beautiful. When I came back people said how was it. I said the scenery was great.

Q. You indicated - and I'm summarizing my notes here so they may not have all the words you said, but in effect you said before a large number of priests - am I correct in understanding that among those priests were some of the priests who were at the February, March 2002 council meeting?

A. Yes.

Q. And some were not?

A. Right. Every priest in the Diocese was supposed to go to this.

Q. And you made certain remarks out loud in front of the assembly of priests; is that correct?

A. I stood up -

Q. And Bishop Dupre gave a strong rejoinder -

A. Right.

Q. - to you in front of the assembly; is that a fair characterization of that, sir?

A. His was stronger than mine, yes, sir.

Q. And at the conclusion of his remarks did some other priests get up and make statements either for or against your statements or his statements?

A. Yes, there were statements made both for - for - there were some challenging statements made as regards to this by others than I, but after my remarks I believe a couple of priests stood up extremely supportive of Bishop Dupre.

Q. Did any priests get up in support of the comments you had made?

A. No.

Q. And how many priests got up to support the statements that Bishop Dupre had made?

A. They didn't so much get up to support the comments that he made as much as to support him, and I would say two or three.

Q. Was there applause after either comment?

A. I think there was a pall that had come over - like a pall that had come over the whole thing because of the tension and also because of the statements on both sides, and I don't recall applause. Ahh, yes, I do. Father Quigley got up and made some inane remarks about a woman's body and there were large chuckles and applause, believe it or not, over that.

Q. Now, at the council meetings or prior to attending your first meeting you took a certain oath, did you not, sir?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why not?

A. They forgot to give it. They really did forget to give it. In January what they -

Q. So you brought up the lack of an oath at what time?

A. Which oath are we talking?

Q. Certain oath of confidentiality that you give when you attend those meetings amongst the priests and the bishop?

A. That oath should have been given to the new members in January of 2002 but it was not given.

Q. And when did you bring up the fact that they had neglected to give you the oath?

A. I have never brought it up.

Q. Not until just now?

A. Not until just now, but I am fully aware that there is an esprit de corps and there is understanding of confidentiality be maintained on what's discussed at those meetings. But the vow of silence can't be defended if it becomes a complicity of silence to the truth. It would become like the silent vow of people who belong to the Mafia.

Q. When the vow was given to the new members in the year 2003, in January 2003, you were aware then that the oath had not been given to you in January 2002, weren't you, Father Scahill?

A. I - you could find out - I was aware since January 2002 that the vow wasn't given.

Q. And in January 2003 did you speak up and say, hey, you didn't give me the oath of confidentiality a year ago, maybe you should do it now, did you say that?

A. No, I did not. I don't know if for sure I was at the January meeting but I have never - no, I did not.
MR. CALLAN: Take a two-minute break and maybe we'll be all through. Thank you. Just a moment, please.

(A brief recess was taken.)

MR. CALLAN: Thank you, Father Scahill. I have no questions at this time.
THE WITNESS: Thank you, sir.

REDIRECT-EXAMINATION BY MR. STOBIERSKI

Q. Father Scahill, I have a few follow-up questions. Again, I'm sorry to put you through this one more time, but you had testified that you were sitting maybe three to four chairs away from the bishop when he made the statement in the February, March meeting of 2002, correct, or thereabouts?

A. I would say that I tried to make clear our very ordinary orientation to certain locations to sit in church or a table at home or - and I know I'm never beyond that fourth chair, usually on this side. It's usually the second or third chair.

Q. The left side from the head of the table -

A. Bishop Dupre's there, let's say he's there, it's this side. So it's this chair or this chair that I would normally sit at.

Q. She can't pick up this and that, so I'm going to say the left-hand side of the person sitting at the head chair, correct?

A. Right.

Q. And you indicated you didn't have any - you don't have any problem with your hearing?

A. No, thank God.

Q. You never had a hearing test and needed a hearing aid or anything like that?

A. No.

Q. Have you ever been to any of these meetings and not been able to understand what Bishop Dupre had said during the meetings?

A. No, no.

Q. And is there any possibility whatsoever that you could have mistaken what Bishop Dupre had said?
MR. CALLAN: Objection.
THE WITNESS: I absolutely did not mistake. I could never, ever, ever go through what I'm going through and may have to continue to go through on some vague recollection. It is in my head firmly. It was said.

Q. (By Mr. Stobierski) With respect to your ability to hear -

A. I've testified that my hearing is good.

Q. And there is no way that it could have been muddled what you heard or anything like that?

A. No.
MR. CALLAN: Objection.

Q. (By Mr. Stobierski) Now, you had indicated, you testified that we had spoken several times by a telephone before our meeting?

A. I don't think I said several. I think I only recall once.

Q. One time, okay. Do you recall on that one time -

A. I only recall once. But you can't - can he -

Q. I cannot testify. I can't testify.

A. I don't know if it was more than once but it was not a lot. We don't converse a lot of times.

Q. No, we don't converse. And you had indicated, you had testified that I was able to relate to you what happened at the convocation, correct? A. Yes.

Q. Do you have a specific recollection of me telling you that I could relate that because I have a cousin who is a priest or is that what you are surmising?
MR. CALLAN: Objection.
THE WITNESS: Yes. I asked you how you knew this and that's when you told me that Father Aksamit is your cousin.

Q. (By Mr. Stobierski) You know he's my cousin but do you know that's why I knew what I knew?
MR. CALLAN: Objection. Are you trying to impeach your own witness now, Mr. Stobierski?
MR. STOBIERSKI: No.
THE WITNESS: Yeah, I just really don't understand that question.
MR. STOBIERSKI: No, I'm not trying to impeach my own witness. I'm just trying to understand. He said - and I want to be clear on this - he said "Attorney Stobierski could correct me" because he didn't have a firm recollection and I was exploring one piece of that recollection.

Q. (By Mr. Stobierski) Now, a number of victims have come to you over the years as you have testified?

A. I said approximately six, four to six. I've heard from some over the phone but I was talking simply physical presence.

Q. Do you know why they seek you out?

A. It's been explained to me that they are trying to get God back in their lives, and some of them have said they even want to get back to church. One of them has recovered from substance abuse and God-connectedness was part of the sobriety, and he's losing that God-connectedness, so those are the kind of things.

Q. Do you have a recollection of ever being at a Presbyteral Council meeting and hearing an oath given to members?

A. No, I've not. I've not been present either at 2002 or 2003 where oaths were given to anyone. I'm aware that that is the procedure that is followed but that's hearsay because this is my first time on a Presbyteral Council so I know that something was supposed to have been done. In fact, Sister Carol Ciffate, the co-chancellor, reminded me after the fact that that was an oversight, that they hadn't done it. So she knew they hadn't done it, so I don't know why they didn't do it after she said that it was an oversight that it wasn't done.

Q. When did she tell you that it was an oversight?

A. I can't recall. It was probably in the summer of 2002.

Q. And as co-chancellor do you understand her to have some responsibilities in that regard? Who gives the oaths?

A. I think Monsignor Sniezyk. Father Liston - between Monsignor Sniezyk and Father Liston, they, for whatever reason, for whatever reason, forgot to do it in 2002. I don't know if they did it in 2003 so I must not have been present at that meeting, because it wasn't done in my presence where others were taking an oath that I did not take.

Q. Are there other activities that you are involved in as a priest where you have to take some form of oath?

A. When you become a pastor you take an oath.

Q. And is that an oral or written oath?

A. You sign it.

Q. And is that what you would expect to do with respect to the Presbyteral Council?

A. I would expect it would be similar but I'm not sure because I've never seen it.

Q. And have you been pledged to secrecy in any of your other activities, obviously other than confessions, with respect to your duties as a priest?

A. Well, I was chairman of the Diocese building commission for six years but there are no matters that are discussed there that would require any oaths.

Q. So there's nothing else that you know of that -

A. That I can think of at this point, no.
MR. STOBIERSKI: That's fine. All right. I have no further questions. Thank you.
MR. CALLAN: Thank you, Father.
THE WITNESS: Thank you, sir.
MS. MCNALLY: Thank you, gentlemen.

(The deposition was concluded.)

 


 
 

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