Dupre Probe Readied for Vatican

By Bill Zajac
Republican [Springfield MA]
March 2, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - The diocesan investigation into allegations that recently resigned Bishop Thomas L. Dupre abused two minors more than 25 years ago has been completed and notes from that probe could be en route to the Vatican within days.

Church officials said the investigation was completed Saturday when the second of the two alleged victims was interviewed by church officials from both the Springfield Diocese and the Boston Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

However, Springfield diocesan victim outreach director Laura F. Reilly, who participated in the investigation with the alleged victims, said she was unsure whether Dupre would be interviewed, and, if he is interviewed, who would do it.

"Our marching orders were to get information from the two men and pass it along," said Reilly.

"If it (a Dupre interview) does happen, it won't happen until the district attorney is done with his investigation," Reilly said.

Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett is exploring a possible criminal investigation.

"The church is very concerned about getting involved in criminal investigations," said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, the editor of Jesuit magazine "America" and an expert on church politics.

The Rev. Sean M. Connor, an archdiocese official and former state police officer, was the lead questioner when the first alleged victim was interviewed by church officials in person for three hours Friday in Boston and the second alleged victim from California was interviewed in a one-and-a-half-hour teleconference session Saturday.

Reilly and her archdiocesan counterpart each have typed their own notes, which will be sent this week with a cover letter from the Springfield Diocese to the papal nuncio, the pope's representative in the United States.

Also, both sets of notes were sent yesterday to Bennett.

Reilly said the investigative materials that will be forwarded to the Vatican by the papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., will not include a recommendation by the investigative team as to the credibility of the allegations.

"I can say that the men were sincere and told a very compelling story, a very sad story," said Reilly.

Notes will also be forwarded to the Springfield Diocese's Review Board, which investigates allegations of abuse.

Although the Vatican will decide any possible action against Dupre, the Review Board may comment on the credibility of the allegations without addressing possible punitive action, Reilly said.

Minimum action against Dupre would be removal from all public ministry if the allegations prove to be credible, according to Reese.

"Beyond that, we are in uncharted ground," said Reese.

Dupre resigned abruptly Feb. 11 after The Republican confronted him with questions about alleged sexual abuse he may have committed while a parish priest more than 25 years ago. The men leveling the accusations are now 39 and 40; one was a teen and the other a preteen when the alleged abuse began.

Dupre is not the first bishop accused of sexual abuse. At least 16 other bishops worldwide, including eight in the United States, have been accused of sexual abuse since 1985, according to Survivors-First, an international organizations of clergy sexual abuse survivors.

Dupre has made no comment himself or through his lawyer since his resignation.

"I don't anticipate making any comment until the district attorney's investigation becomes clearer," said Michael O. Jennings, Dupre's lawyer.

Bennett also refused comment yesterday.

"We may have something to say later in the week - maybe Wednesday or Thursday," Bennett said.

The district attorney is looking into a range of possible charges. One could include violating a state law requiring that clergy report suspected child abuse to law enforcement officials. The violation carries a $1,000 fine.

The Springfield-based affiliate of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests announced yesterday that it has asked Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly to open a criminal investigation of the Springfield Diocese. Reilly's office acknowledged receipt of the group's letter and said it has been in contact with Bennett's office.


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