Springfield Bishop Wants to Testify under Oath

The Republican [Springfield MA]
September 18, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield says he wants to set the record straight and is willing to testify under oath that he never implicated his predecessor in a scheme to destroy church records.

The Most Rev. Thomas Dupre issued a statement Thursday denying allegations made by the Rev. James Scahill, who told reporters he heard Dupre tell members of an advisory council in early 2002 that former Bishop Christopher Weldon destroyed personnel records in the mid-1970s.

Scahill, pastor of St. Michael's Parish in East Longmeadow, has criticized the diocese's handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal. His parish has been withheld collections from the diocese to protest its continued financial support of the Rev. Richard Lavigne, who was convicted of molesting two boys.

"Because of published reports attributing to me statements I never made, I feel compelled to set the record straight in a formal setting," Dupre said in the statement.

"I have requested that I be deposed under oath so that I can state that records of the Diocese of Springfield have never been destroyed," said the bishop, who also asked that reporters be allowed to attend the deposition.

No date has been set for Dupre's testimony, spokesman Mark Dupont said, but he said it would take place very soon.

The diocese said Scahill had misunderstood Dupre's remarks, and mischaracterized them. The bishop was referring to personal items, such as prayer books and letters, and not personnel records, which are official church documents, Dupont said.

None of the other members of the advisory council who attended the meeting backed Scahill's version, Dupont said.

John Stobierski, who represents more than a dozen people who say they were abused by priests in the diocese, told The Republican of Springfield on Wednesday that he had arranged to depose Scahill and would seek to question Dupre.

A hearing is scheduled next week in Hampden Superior Court on a church request to dismiss five cases involving allegations of abuse before 1971. Scahill said the pending hearing prompted him to speak out.


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