Sex Charges Would Be First for a Bishop

By Theo Emery
Associated Press, carried in Hartford Courant [Springfield MA]
March 5, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- If a grand jury indicts him, Thomas Dupre would be the first bishop charged in the sex scandal that engulfed the Roman Catholic Church two years ago.

Hampden District Attorney William Bennett announced Thursday he will pursue sex abuse charges against the retired Dupre, 70, who is accused of abusing two boys, who are now 39 and 40 years old.

One boy was a recent immigrant who eagerly accepted an offer of English lessons from his parish priest. The other was the boy's high school friend.

What followed, according to lawyers, is a sordid tale of abuse in which the priest allegedly plyed the two altar boys with alcohol and sexually molested them in the 1970s.

Bennett said the statute of limitations on the abuse itself has likely expired. But because Dupre allegedly tried to recently conceal the abuse, it may still be possible to charge him with molesting the boys, Bennett said.

Nationally, there have been at least a dozen grand jury investigations involving bishops, and four have resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct.

"It is a test for Rome: will you protect the children, or will you protect the bishop?" said Roderick MacLeish Jr., the attorney for the two men.

Dupre stepped down Feb. 11, citing health reasons. His retirement came a day after The Republican newspaper of Springfield confronted Dupre with the allegations.

Dupre's lawyer, Michael Jennings, has not commented on the allegations. He did not immediately return a call Thursday.

Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the Diocese of Springfield, said "the diocese will continue to cooperate in this investigation."

Both alleged victims have met with officials from the Springfield Diocese and Boston Archdiocese. A report on the church's internal investigation was forwarded to the Vatican earlier this week.

Bennett said the grand jury investigation will not be limited to the accusations of the two former altar boys, but he declined to say whether other accusers have come forward. He did not say when the grand jury inquiry would start, or how long it was expected to last.

MacLeish, an attorney for many victims of sexual abuse who reached an $85 million settlement last year with the Boston Archdiocese, has said Dupre tried to cover up the abuse. When he was about to be appointed auxiliary bishop in 1990, Dupre contacted the men and told them he would not accept the position unless they remained quiet, MacLeish said.

MacLeish said his clients agreed to remain silent, and kept in touch with Dupre after he was appointed bishop. Dupre sent one client birthday and holiday cards, and sometimes money, though the two men never asked for money as a condition of their silence, MacLeish said.

He said one of the accusers met with Dupre in January and said he regretted having had sexual relations with the bishop. MacLeish said Dupre apologized, then asked if the man intended to make their relationship known.

MacLeish said one of the accusers, who is gay, came forward with his claims after hearing Dupre speak out against the legalization of same-sex marriage.


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