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  Priests Accused in Suits
Under an agreement with the diocese, the church is not named in the 6 suits filed this week in Hampden Superior Court

By Bill Zajac
[Springfield MA] Republican
January 7, 2005

SPRINGFIELD - One of the six clergy abuse suits filed this week in Hampden Superior Court makes the first accusation against a monsignor who died in 1991, saying he held out the promise of a Cathedral High School education to his alleged victim.

Although the late Monsignor Timothy L. Leary was not named as a defendant, the suit filed by a 48-year-old Springfield man under the pseudonym "Frank Doe" alleges Leary abused him for five years beginning in the fourth grade.

Mark E. Dupont, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, said the diocese has not previously received a complaint of abuse against Leary.

The man who filed the suit said Leary held out the hope of entry and tuition to Cathedral. "The abuse stopped in eighth grade when I walked away from the church upon discovering they weren't going to help my education. I wanted a good education so badly," he said.

His suit states Leary introduced the boy to the Rev. Francis P. Lavelle, who separately abused him and made the same promise of an education. Lavelle, who was permanently removed from ministry by the diocese more than a year ago because of credible allegations of sexual abuse, is named as the defendant in the suit.

Lavelle's lawyer, C.J. Moriarty, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Leary, a Worcester native, died at age 81 in 1991. He served in many prestigious positions in the diocese, including overseeing the planning of Cathedral High School before its construction and serving as the school's director.

Leary also served as rector of St. Michael's Cathedral and as diocesan director of cemeteries.

The plaintiff said the abuse started with Leary abusing him when he served as an altar boy at St. Michael's Cathedral and that he was abused at cemeteries after serving at graveside services.

In the later years, the man said that Leary and Lavelle each paid him anywhere from $25 to $50 occasionally so that he would remain silent about the abuse.

Lavelle was previously named as a defendant in two other suits, which were settled this summer.

The six suits filed this week by Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski name only individual priests and not the diocese as defendants.

However, an agreement between Stobierski, who settled 46 suits with the diocese this summer for $7.75 million, and the diocese will enable Stobierski's clients to enter settlement talks with the diocese if and when other outstanding suits are settled.

"In the spirit of cooperation, we hope we have entered into a new era and that we don't need to file suits against the diocese and for them to treat survivors of abuse with respect and recognize what the survivors have gone through," Stobierski said.

The diocese confirmed an agreement has been reached with Stobierski.

Meanwhile, the person whose accusation led to the Rev. Michael H. Devlin being removed recently from ministry has filed a suit against Devlin.

Daniel B. Daley, a 44-year-old West Springfield man, alleges in the suit that Devlin began sexually abusing him when his parents brought him to Devlin for counseling.

Devlin was a priest at St. Thomas Parish in West Springfield at the time and Daley was 11 or 12 years old, according to the suit. Devlin's attorney could not be reached for comment.

Daley, a retired 16-year Air Force veteran, said yesterday he reported the abuse to the diocese in October. Devlin's removal from ministry was announced last week.

"I'd like to see him defrocked. Although he was taken out of ministry, he is still being paid. Who gets fired and still gets paid?" Daley said.

The abuse went on for two years, Daley said.

Also, a 56-year-old Easthampton man filed a suit under a "Doe" pseudonym accusing former Stigmatine priest Leo P. Landry of abusing him as a minor at St. Anthony's Church in Agawam and several other places.

Landry, who admitted in a sworn statement to New Hampshire law enforcement officials two years ago that he abused children while serving several assignments in the Springfield diocese, according to the state's attorney general, pleaded guilty in August to criminal sexual abuse charges in Norfolk County.

He was sentenced to life probation and must comply with a series of other restrictions, including no unsupervised contact with children, according to Norfolk County District Attorney spokesman David Traub.

The Rev. John A. Koonz, who was removed from ministry more than a year ago because of abuse allegations, has been named as a defendant for the fourth time in a suit. The three previous suits were settled this summer. The accuser filed under a "Doe" pseudonym. Koonz could not be reached for comment.

Also, two men under "Doe" pseudonyms filed suits against Richard R. Lavigne, who has been accused by about 50 people of abusing them as minors and who was defrocked more than a year ago.

 
 

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