Sex Allegations Disturb Faithful
By Bea O'Quinn Dewberry firstname.lastname@example.org
Republican [Springfield MA]
February 13, 2004
SPRINGFIELD - Local Catholics reacted with anger, disbelief and frustration yesterday after the bishop's abrupt resignation following allegations of sexual abuse.
Bernice "Bunny" Croteau, mother of slain altar boy Daniel Croteau, said the news of the allegations was upsetting.
It's getting to the point where nothing surprises us anymore," Croteau said. "I can see why things haven't been done the way they should. They were not handled too well at all."
The prime suspect in the 1972 death of her son was Richard R. Lavigne, a convicted child molester and former priest who was defrocked this year. The Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, who has not answered the allegations or been charged with any crime, has been accused by plaintiffs in clergy sexual abuse cases of acting too slowly to strip Lavigne of his collar.
Dupre abruptly resigned Wednesday, citing health reasons, one day after The Republican submitted to the diocese written questions about allegations of sexual abuse made against the bishop. The newspaper has been investigating the allegations for months after a longtime diocesan school worker said her son and another boy had been abused by Dupre beginning about 25 years ago when Dupre was a priest.
Many Roman Catholics expressed concern for the future of the church, saying members continue to grow more disheartened with their religion.
Laura Failla Reilly, victims advocate for the diocese, said a healing Mass will be held next week at St. Michael's Church in Springfield. A date has not yet been determined.
Reilly said the Mass will be a means for the church, the alleged victims, the parish community and all those affected by Dupre's resignation and the sex scandals to gather in prayer.
She said a forum for Catholics to voice their concerns about the issues will be held in coming weeks.
"The reaction for many Catholics is disbelief. Whether they think it's true or not, people are upset," Reilly said.
"I'm upset on a lot of levels. I feel very bad for the men who don't want to come forward, and I'm afraid that their anonymity will be broken," Reilly said.
Reilly, who has worked closely to help establish the diocese clergy sex abuse policy and Code of Conduct involving the protection of children, said she did not want the church's work in handling sex abuse allegations to be viewed as "a sham."
"We've worked so hard to restore trust. I just feel like this is going backwards," Reilly said.
Several Catholics said they were saddened by the news, but not surprised.
Dupre has been criticized for the diocese's financial support of Lavigne, who may still be able to tap into a new fund set up by the diocese and funded by private donors even though he is defrocked. The fund is for priests removed from ministry for sexual abuse.
The Springfield diocese has more than 30 clergy sexual abuse suits pending with ongoing negotiations to settle. In the past two years, about 50 complaints of misconduct have been made against 30 or so diocesan workers, mostly priests, in the Springfield diocese.
Paul W. Alrutz, who attends Holy Family Church in Springfield, said the allegations should be taken seriously and investigated closely.
Alrutz said he hoped diocesan officials would not give the bishop any preferential treatment in investigating the claims made against him.
"It's very disturbing and unsettling," Alrutz said.
Some find the allegations hard to mesh with the image of a man they considered to be a good spiritual leader.
Yvonne A. Isabelle of Wilbraham, who worked as a housekeeper at St. Louis de France rectory in West Springfield for 11 years while Dupre lived there, called Dupre "a great man."
"He is the kind of person that would do anything for anyone. I remember he used to always be late for Mass. He would say, 'What can I do if people stop me and want to talk?' We used to call him the late Tom Dupre," said Isabelle, adding that she never saw any signs of behavior that would indicate misconduct on Dupre's part.
Dupre was the pastor of the West Springfield parish - where one of the alleged victims worshipped - in 1978-1990.
Louise M. Cole said the priest scandals have steered her away from attending her home parish, Blessed Sacrament Church in Holyoke.
The latest news has soured her opinion even more, she said.
"I think the whole scandal from everything that's happened in the past that has come out in the last four to five years to now has made me less of a churchgoer," Cole, an administrative assistant, said.
Cole said the scandals have not shaken her faith, however.
"Religion is more intimate and more inner than having to believe in a priest," Cole said.
He is the kind of person that would do anything for anyone. I remember he used to always be late for Mass. He would say, 'What can I do if people stop me and want to talk?' We used to call him the late Tom Dupre.Yvonne A. Isabelle
I think the whole scandal from everything that's happened in the past that has come out in the last four to five years to now has made me less of a churchgoer.Louise M. Cole
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.