Alleged Victims Support DA in Bishop Probe

By Bill Zajac
Republican [Springfield MA]
February 26, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - One of the two men who say they were sexually abused as boys by the retired Catholic bishop fully supports a criminal investigation, while the other alleged victim is poised to support the probe of the Rev. Thomas L. Dupre.

Meanwhile, both men expressed frustration with the inability of church officials in both the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and the Archdiocese of Boston to launch their own investigations.

Local church officials last night admitted their own confusion, apologized to victims and promised to clarify the direction of the investigation within days.

Also, the men's lawyer, Roderick MacLeish Jr., said the diocese ignored three communications that alleged abuse by Dupre. He is urging the diocese not to destroy evidence, including two letters last year and an e-mail sent to the bishop in 2002 that alleged abuse.

Tuesday night, two weeks after the unexpected, immediate resignation of Dupre as bishop, the first of the two men met for four hours with law enforcement investigators.

The man whose mother was the main source of information about the abuse reported by The Republican at the time of the bishop's resignation was interviewed by Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett in Boston. The mother told The Republican she had sent the bishop two angry letters about the alleged abuse last year, but diocesan officials said they did not find the letters in the bishop's office after he left.

"Our first client will fully cooperate with any investigation," said MacLeish. "Of course he reserves the right to change his mind."

The other alleged victim was scheduled to be interviewed last night.

"I don't know what will happen tonight, but I assume he will also fully support any investigation," said MacLeish last night.

Bennett yesterday said it is too early to know if criminal charges will be filed.

"In cases like these that are old and involve sexual abuse and involve privacy issues, we would not want to proceed without the support of the victims," said Bennett.

The statute of limitations, which is currently 15 years on sexual charges in Massachusetts, could play an important role in decisions regarding possible charges.

The two men have said Dupre asked them to remain quiet about the abuse when he was about to be named auxiliary bishop in 1990. MacLeish said telephone records and credit card receipts show Dupre maintained a relationship with his clients.

Dupre's accusers, 40 and 39 years old, said they were sexually abused by him when he was a parish priest and beginning when the men were 12 and 13 years old.

The abuse of one client, a refugee who came to this country in 1975, lasted into his high school years, according to MacLeish.

The other client was abused until he was 20, he said. Both said Dupre gave them liquor and used gay pornography before the sexual assaults, which included oral and anal sex.

MacLeish said he anticipates the first client who was interviewed to be interviewed at least once more.

"The district attorney was exceptionally compassionate and conducted interviews himself and did an excellent job," said MacLeish, who has represented several hundred clients who settled lawsuits in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Both clients are frustrated that church officials in Springfield and Boston have failed to launch their own investigations in the two weeks since Dupre resigned and the allegations against him were made public.

"We have struggled to communicate the allegations to the church. It has become increasingly frustrating that there is no clarity as to who the decision-makers are regarding the investigation," said MacLeish.

"Our clients have been ready and willing to be interviewed, but there is no clarity as to who is in charge," said MacLeish.

Archbishop Sean O'Malley is willing to participate in the investigations, but has said it is not his jurisdiction, MacLeish said.

"And my clients don't want it investigated by the diocesan Review Board that was appointed by Bishop Dupre," MacLeish said.

Springfield Diocese spokesman Mark E. Dupont admitted there has been confusion.

"We recognize there has been a lack of clarity of jurisdiction regarding these matters. It is unfortunate for the victims who have gone out of their way to facilitate such an investigation," Dupont said.

He said Springfield's diocesan victim outreach director Laura Failla Reilly will discuss the matters with Boston church officials within several days.

"We hope to have a clearer direction very shortly," Dupont said. "We are actively consulting with canon lawyers."

He apologized to the alleged victims and their families.

MacLeish said there may still be evidence on the bishop's computer of the email sent to him about the abuse in 2002. The Republican received an anonymous e-mail in 2002 also alleging Dupre abused two minors.

"We want to make sure there is no destruction of evidence," said MacLeish.

"We believe there was an e-mail that was opened and seen in 2002, although we don't know who opened it and who saw it," MacLeish said.

The mother of one of the alleged victims said she sent letters to the bishop about the allegations last spring and last fall. In both, she expressed her outrage at the abuse, which she said she learned about after The Republican inquired of her family about the allegation. Besides being close to the alleged victim, Dupre participated in occasional family dinners with the victim's family, the mother said.

MacLeish said the bishop or a secretary would have had to open the letters. The mother said she marked the second one confidential.

"We believe the diocese has more information regarding these allegations," MacLeish said. "We would like Monsignor (Richard S.) Sniezyk to come out with the truth about these allegations. We have no doubt about the truth of these allegations."

Sniezyk has said Dupre didn't relate anything about the sexual abuse allegations when Dupre told him the night before the resignation was announced that he was retiring immediately. Sniezyk returned home from a Florida vacation one week early after Dupre told him he would have to assume the diocese's top leadership position, at least temporarily.

"I believe there is more information the diocese has. And I don't believe Dupre left with no explanations," MacLeish said.

Although diocesan officials would not disclose the name of the facility Dupre entered the night before his resignation was announced, MacLeish last week said it is St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland.

St. Luke Institute has neither confirmed nor denied Dupre is a patient, citing privacy laws, but Jo-Ann Moriarty, a reporter for The Republican, said Dupre appeared in the hallway inside a locked, glass-enclosed entrance yesterday at the facility. Moriarty, who said the bishop was dressed in khaki slacks and a plaid shirt, appeared after she inquired about him but then quickly walked away.

St. Luke is a facility that treats a variety of disorders, including mental illness, addictions and sexual disorders. Defrocked priest Richard R. Lavigne of Chicopee, who has been accused by 35 people of abusing them as minors, was treated there.