Priest Urges Aid for Woman

By Bill Zajac
The Republican [Springfield MA]
October 25, 2003

SPRINGFIELD - Saying it is inconsistent with the church's teachings to respect all human life, a Wilbraham priest has criticized the bishop's stated intention to not provide financial help to a former Lee rectory housekeeper who said she is pregnant by a parish priest.

The Rev. Joseph M. Soranno, pastor of St. Cecelia's Parish in Wilbraham, stated his feelings in a letter to the editor intended for publication in The Republican. He said he wanted Catholics to encourage the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, to reconsider his position.

"I am writing this letter with the hope that every Catholic in the Diocese of Springfield will stand up for life and challenge Bishop (Thomas L.) Dupre and the Diocese of Springfield to reconsider his handling of the situation in Lee," Soranno wrote.

Last week a diocesan statement said the Rev. Paul C. Laflamme of St. Mary Mother of the Church parish in Lee was removed from ministry after he admitted having a sexual relationship with Josephine DiZoglio, who said Laflamme is the father of her unborn child.

At that time, diocesan spokesman Mark E. Dupont said the diocese would not help DiZoglio with her medical expenses.

Yesterday, Dupont indicated "the diocese would be handling some of her expenses."

However, he said no decision has been made regarding paying medical expenses for the birth of the child, even if paternity tests determine Laflamme is the father.

"We have a ways to go before we cross that bridge," said Dupont.

Laflamme's pastor, the Rev. Gary M. Dailey, is accused by DiZoglio of preventing her from contacting Laflamme and from attending church, firing her while she was in the hospital after a suicide attempt and encouraging her to have an abortion. Dailey denies harassing her and suggesting an abortion.

Dupre is expected to meet with Dailey during the first week of November and could act upon a recommendation of the Misconduct Commission regarding Dailey. Diocesan officials would not comment on the recommendation.

Soranno wrote, "As a result of this pregnancy the employee was fired by the pastor, Fr. Gary Dailey and has been cut off from any financial or emotional support from the Diocese and Fr. Laflamme." He said yesterday he wrote the letter out of frustration with the situation.

"She is not being properly treated. She shouldn't be made into the scapegoat," said Soranno.

He said he saw similarities in the way DiZoglio is being treated and the way alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse have been treated by the diocese.

In the letter, Soranno wrote that he is confused by the bishop's financial support of priests who have been removed from ministry for child sexual abuse, "but the Diocese does not feel obligated by Christian charity to pay for the medical needs of an unborn child or its pregnant mother."

"Once again, I find myself asking the question, 'why isn't the leadership of our Church doing the right thing, the just thing? What would Jesus do?,'" Soranno wrote.

"I believe that He would find a way to act with love and compassion and to protect human life. I urge every Catholic to stand up for life and for every child, born and unborn," Soranno wrote.

Soranno said the bishop's position on this pregnancy would likely prevent other Catholic groups such as the Knights of Columbus and Priests for Life from reaching out and helping her.

"Too many people are going to be silent on this because the bishop has spoken to it," Soranno said.

DiZoglio's lawyer said he intends to file a complaint against the diocese with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination over his client's firing. He also intends to file a suit, but has given no specifics regarding it.


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