Clergy Victims Invited to Event

By Michael McAuliffe
Republican [Springfield MA]
March 24, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Twenty people who have accused clergy of sex abuse are among the 1,400 people invited to the April 1 installation of Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell as prelate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

The reactions yesterday of three of the accusers were as mixed as they could be: One said he will attend, one rejected the invitation and one is undecided.

McDonnell is the diocese's eighth bishop, replacing the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, who resigned abruptly last month after being confronted by The Republican with allegations he abused two boys beginning more than 25 years ago.

Although Laura F. Reilly, the diocese's victim advocate, said McDonnell made the invitations as a gesture to reach out to abuse victims, neither of Dupre's accusers were invited.

Among those who will attend the ceremony at St. Michael's Cathedral are Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York; Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston; Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford, and Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, representative of Pope John Paul II in the United States.

Among the alleged victims invited were Stephen J. Block of Springfield, Andre P. Tessier of West Hartford, Conn., and Thomas M. Martin of Springfield. All say they were abused by the Rev. Richard R. Lavigne, who has since been defrocked.

Lavigne, who was convicted in 1992 of molesting two brothers who had been altar servers, was placed on probation for 10 years before being defrocked.

Block decided to decline the invitation, though he did not level criticism at McDonnell, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York before being named to replace Dupre.

"I wish the new bishop well," Block said.

Tessier said he will attend.

"At first I was shocked," he said. "But now that I'm thinking about it, it's a positive thing ... extremely positive."

Martin said he believes his invitation was a disingenuous gesture to enable McDonnell to get a look at victims. However, he said he has yet to decide whether he will attend.

The invitation entitles Martin to bring a guest, and he said his mother, Theresa, will attend.

My mother would like me to go," he said. "I know she would, so I'm still undecided."

Reilly said the 20 people invited who have alleged clergy sex abuse include individuals who have filed a lawsuit or whose complaint of abuse was found credible by the diocese's Review Board.

The two men accusing Dupre recently filed lawsuits. When asked why they were not invited, Reilly said, "They're not on the list because they're still kind of in the pending status."

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