Grand Jury Convened for Dupre Case

By Chuck Colbert
National Catholic Reporter
March 19, 2004

A grand jury has been convened to investigate the case of Bishop Thomas L. Dupre, who resigned as head of the Springfield, Mass., diocese Feb. 11 after two men accused him of sexually molesting them more than 25 years ago, when they were 13 and 12 years old.

If the grand jury indicts Dupre, he would become the first prelate with criminal allegations against him to face prosecution in the sex abuse crisis, still rocking the region and nation.

“I have determined that there is probable cause to support these allegations,” Hampden District Attorney William Bennett said March 4 in a two-page press statement. “Therefore, I have decided to present the matter to the grand jury for full and complete review of all evidence.” He added, “Today I wanted to state very clearly and plainly that we have completed our preliminary investigation and that investigation convinces me that we need to go forward.”

Dupre abruptly left his post, citing health reasons, just as the allegations became public. According to published reports, Dupre, who had speculated in May that he might retire before the mandatory age of 75 because of health issues, entered St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a medical facility that treats priests with a variety of emotional, psychological and behavioral disorders, including sex abuse.

He was quickly replaced when Rome announced March 9 the appointment of Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of New York to head Springfield. McDonnell, during a Mass the same day for Springfield diocesan employees, said promoting reconciliation is his major priority.

McDonnell, 66, was part of the transition team that temporarily ran Covenant House, a center for runaway minors in New York, after its director and founder, Bruce Ritter, resigned in 1990 following accusations of financial mismanagement and sexual misconduct with minors.

The bishop’s swift departure came after The Republican, the daily newspaper serving the western part of the state, confronted the 70-year-old prelate with allegations of sexual misconduct.

Bennett, who is undertaking a wide-ranging investigation, said he is considering a variety of possible charges.

Shortly after Dupre resigned, Massachusetts State Police searched the former bishop’s residence, The Republican reported, and left the premises with a carton containing large manila envelopes and other paper materials. The search warrant was served through the diocese’s legal counsel.

Bennett said that other materials obtained in the probe include photographs of Dupre with the alleged victims, as well as records and documents, according to published reports.

Lawyers for the alleged victims said that Dupre took his clients on trips to New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire, among other places, as well as Canada.

The two men, whose names have not yet been released, allege that Dupre plied them with wine and cognac before engaging in sexual relations, according to Boston-based attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. Dupre told the boys that a sexual relationship “was a logical expression of love and that God teaches love,” said MacLeish.

MacLeish explained that one of his clients, who came out as a gay man in the 1980s and now lives in California, became irate over Dupre’s outspoken public stand against civil marriage rights for gays, which the alleged victim viewed as the bishop’s “arrogance and hypocrisy.”

At press time, MacLeish told NCR that he expects his clients’ names will be released to the public shortly. He also praised the district attorney’s office of Hampden County. “[Bennett] has done a tremendous job,” MacLeish said. “He has been totally cooperative, pouring in tremendous resources.”

The 133-year-old Springfield diocese, which includes 129 parishes and 14 missions, has a population of 275,000 Catholics throughout the four western Massachusetts counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire.

Chuck Colbert is a freelance writer who lives in Boston.


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