Massachusetts Bishop Resigns Amid Charges

By Ryan Peterson
Capital News 9 [Springfield MA]
February 20, 2004

Bishop Thomas Dupre has headed the diocese of 260,000 Catholics, which includes Berkshire County, since 1995.

For the past two years he has guided the diocese through at least 15 lawsuits against former diocesan priest Richard Lavigne, and has now retained his own lawyer to guide him through allegations that he molested two young boys while he was a parish priest in the 1970's.

"You're saying, wow, what's happening here, our own bishop, he's been accused. I don't know about the clarity of the allegations, whether they're credible or not. That will be determined I think in a short time," said Monsignor Richard Sniezyk.

Monsignor Sniezyk, the acting diocesan administrator, has worked hand in hand with Dupre for the past nine years. He has had no contact with him since his resignation.

Bishop Dupre played such a significant role in the development of the procedures and the support system, now in place in the Springfield Diocese for victims of abuse, that the victim's advocate for the diocese is now worried how those already in the system will react to the latest allegations.

"We established policies and procedures on child abuse and education programs on child abuse prevention. We have a code of conduct. All the work we've done, I'm concerned, of course, how the victims are going to be looking at that, perhaps with skepticism," said Laura Failla Reilly, victims advocate.

In fact, the two men accusing Dupre have opted to have their charges heard by a review board at the archdiocese in Boston.

"I can see their point, for objectivity, Bishop Dupre appointed all the members of our diocesan review board," said Sniezyk.

The diocese has been providing therapy for victims, and Reilly stressed they will continue to offer any and all support people need as they work through this difficult time.


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