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  Dupre Named in Civil Lawsuit

By Bill Zajac
[Springfield MA] Republican
March 12, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Two local priests, Worcester's bishop and the archbishop of Boston are expected to be subpoenaed in connection with a civil suit filed yesterday by two men who have accused the recently resigned bishop of Springfield of sexual abuse.

In a move a Boston Archdiocesan official described as "grandstanding," lawyers for the men are attempting to prove that the allegations against Dupre were no secret to influential church leaders and parish priests.

Meanwhile, as expected, the alleged victims' lawyers yesterday filed a civil suit that names the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, the former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, as the only defendant. The suit was filed in Hampden Superior Court.

The 10-page document identifies by name the alleged victims, but their lawyers requested the media not identify them publicly. Although it doesn't specify monetary damages that could be awarded, they are seeking at least $200,000 for therapy.

"They wanted their names used (in the suit) because they wanted to let it be known that they stand by their allegations 100 percent. But they are asking that their names not be published to protect their privacy and the privacy of their friends and families," said Robert A. Sherman, a lawyer with the Boston firm Greenberg Taurig.

The Republican, which has a policy of not identifying alleged sexual abuse victims who want to remain anonymous, has not published the names of the men or details of the allegations that could identify them.

The newspaper did use their names when it confronted Dupre Feb. 10 about details of the allegations after investigating an anonymous tip the previous year and waiting unsuccessfully for either man to come forward.

Dupre, bishop since 1995, resigned within hours and checked himself into a Maryland facility that treats troubled clergy, including those accused of sexual abuse. He has yet to address the allegations on the advice of his lawyer.

The victims' lawyers began serving subpoenas to church officials who they believe may have had knowledge regarding the allegations before they became public.

The Rev. Francis E. Reilly, a close friend of Dupre and the pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Longmeadow, is expected to be served a subpoena today, according to Sherman.

"We have reason to believe there were conversations with Father Reilly that were relevant to the sexual abuse allegations," said Sherman.

Reilly said he didn't know anything about the subpoena. When asked whether he discussed the allegations with Dupre, Reilly refused comment and hung up the phone.

The Rev. W. Donald Fournier, the one-time pastor of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Parish where Dupre once lived, is expected to be served a subpoena today, according to Sherman. Fournier, now retired, could not be reached for comment. Attempts to reach him in the past also failed.

Sherman said he wanted to know what Fournier may have witnessed.

Sherman said a subpoena would also be served to Dupre's childhood friend, the Rev. Robert R. Choquette. The Republican subsequently learned Choquette died in 1984.

One victim, a refugee, was allegedly abused by Dupre beginning shortly after his arrival to this country in 1975 at age 12, according to the suit.

The alleged victim and his family lived in a convent in the same parish where Dupre was assigned then.

The alleged abuse of the other victim began several years later when he was introduced to Dupre by the other boy.

The Most Rev. Daniel Patrick Reilly, the bishop of the Worcester Diocese who will retire soon at age 75, will be subpoenaed to learn if he and Dupre discussed the allegations, Sherman said.

Worcester Diocese spokesman Raymond L. Delisle said Reilly and Dupre were not friends.

"Most bishops only interact at bishops' meetings. It's not like there were any cross-diocesan collaborations between the two dioceses," Delisle said.

Archdiocesan spokesman the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne called the subpoena of Archbishop Sean O'Malley "grandstanding" by lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr. of Greenberg Taurig.

"Archbishop O'Malley said the first instance of him having any information regarding the allegations against Dupre was gained around the time he resigned," Coyne said.

Coyne also said he was not questioning whether the Rev. James J. Scahill of St. Michael's Parish in East Longmeadow called the archbishop in November to report the abuse.

"We just don't have a record of it," said Coyne, adding that "human error" may have accounted for no record of the call and therefore the reason the call was never returned to Scahill. Scahill has said he left a message indicating an urgency in the Springfield Diocese, but didn't specify that it involved allegations against the bishop.

Scahill has produced phone records showing a two-minute call to O'Malley on Nov. 14.

Michael O. Jennings, Dupre's lawyer, said the suit provided few surprises.

"It appears to be the condensation of what we have been reading in the papers the last few weeks," Jennings said.

Jennings said his firm has been busily working on the case.

"We have two very seasoned and competent investigators working on our own investigation," said Jennings.

The suit is unusual in that only one defendant is listed. Most clergy sexual abuse case suits list the alleged abuser, the diocese and the sitting bishop at the time the alleged abuse occurred.

Sherman said his firm is reserving the right to add potential defendants.

The alleged sexual abuse of the boy who was a refugee included masturbation, oral sex and digital penetration, according to the suit.

During the period of the alleged abuse, he told Dupre that he intended to tell his family about it, but that Dupre told him no one would believe it, according to the suit.

The alleged abuse of the refugee occurred in various places, including but not limited to Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Canada, according to the suit.

The alleged acts of abuse of the other boy included masturbation and oral sex, according to the suit.

There were times when the two minors were abused together in places outside Massachusetts, according to the suit.

The suit listed no monetary amount in damages as per state law.

Mark E. Dupont, the spokesman for the Springfield Diocese, said he had no knowledge of Dupre's financial worth, but added that he came from a working class background. Dupont said the diocese will continue paying for the alleged victims' therapy.

"If he (Dupre) is ordered in a civil finding to pay for counseling, then we would not feel obligated to continue paying for it," said Dupont, who had no further comment on the suit.

The statute of limitations for civil suits that allege sexual acts on minors is three years from the time the alleged victim realizes harm has been done. The statute is 15 years for criminal prosecution, but it measures the time from when the incidents of abuse occurred.

The alleged victims, 40 and 39 now, only realized within the past year that they were harmed, according to the suit.

The men have cooperated with a criminal investigation by Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett, who last week announced he would take the Dupre case to a grand jury for possible prosecution. If charges are filed, Dupre would become the first U.S. church leader to be prosecuted on sex-abuse charges in the recent church scandal.

 
 

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