Removed Priest May Fight Ruling

By Bill Zajac
The Republican [Springfield MA]
November 14, 2003

SPRINGFIELD - A priest who has been removed from his ministry for sexual misconduct may seek reinstatement, according to the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Dupre didn't name the priest, but said at a press briefing last week that a priest has made his intentions known to him that he is probably going to fight the decision to remove him from all public ministry.

Dupre removed five priests from ministry last year after U.S. bishops adopted a "zero tolerance" clergy sexual abuse policy. Later, the bishops amended the policy to include due process provisions for accused clerics.

No priest has sought reinstatement in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, but, Dupre said, "It is probably going to happen."

The due process would be sought through the Vatican and require a canon law judicial procedure, according to Dupre. The procedure would be very much like a civil judicial hearing with lawyers and a judge presiding over it, according to Dupre.

In the Springfield diocese, priests have been removed from ministry by order of the bishop, who acts upon recommendations by the nine-member lay Misconduct Commission that investigates and decides whether accusations are "credible."

Finding an accusation "credible" is different from finding someone "guilty" of an accusation, Dupre said.

The priests who were removed from ministry by Dupre were the Revs. John A. Koonz, Edward M. Kennedy, Richard F. Meehan, Alfred C. Graves and Donald V. Dube.

Also, Dupre is seeking the defrocking of the Rev. Richard R. Lavigne, who was taken out of public ministry by then Bishop John Marshall in 1991 after being indicted on child molestation charges. Lavigne was eventually convicted and has been accused by more than 30 people of abusing them when they were children. He was also identified by law enforcement investigators in the 1990s as a suspect in the 1972 murder of Springfield altar boy Daniel Croteau.

Lavigne was classified by the state as a sex offender with a high risk of committing another crime.


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