Bishop Hoping to Heal Wounds

By Bill Zajac
Republican [Springfield MA]
April 1, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - On the eve of his installation as eighth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell stated that settlement of clergy sexual abuse suits will be one of his highest priorities.

"My hope is that we can rebuild trust with those who have been hurt," McDonnell said in his first statement since being appointed a month ago to replace the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre.

Dupre resigned Feb. 10 amid allegations he sexually abused two men when they were minors and he was a parish priest.

McDonnell's installation is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at St. Michael's Cathedral. It is expected to last two hours and will be followed by a public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Mont Marie gym in Holyoke. The installation will be televised live on WWLP TV22.

McDonnell's first press release states that he recently met with mediator Paul A. Finn and that McDonnell hopes Finn can be as successful mediating a settlement here as he was last year in settling more than 500 suits in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Finn had no comment, but a lawyer representing many of the plaintiffs said he welcomed McDonnell's remarks.

"I was disappointed that the diocese previously made as a condition of mediation that no one involved could acknowledge that it was even occurring. The veil of secrecy needs to come down. That's what got the church into this crisis," said Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski.

Stobierski represents about 40 alleged clergy sexual abuse victims, many of whom have filed suits against the diocese.

"I am hopeful that this is a sign that we are starting this process anew," said Stobierski, adding that the last mediation meeting went poorly several weeks ago.

"I also see this as a hopeful sign that the diocese is moving away from a bare-knuckle litigious approach to a more pastoral outreach," Stobierski said.

Martin P. Bono, 49, of Chicopee, who filed a clergy sexual abuse suit a year ago, called it "more great news" from the new bishop.

Bono said he wasn't planning to attend today's installation when he first received the invitation several weeks ago. He changed his mind after the diocese this week announced the establishment of a fund for victims.

"Now I'm really looking forward to meeting him," said Bono.

"Unfortunately, we had to get a different person to do the right thing here. I feel like we are hitting the beginning of the end of this (sexual abuse) stuff," said Bono, who said he filed his suit in the hope that then-Bishop Dupre would apologize to him.

Bono is one of several alleged victims who have been invited to the installation.

More than 1,400 invited guests are expected to attend. About 100 seats will be available for the installation first come, first served. Once those seats are filled in designated pews, only guests with invitations or passes will be allowed in the cathedral.

Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston will perform the installation.

Archbishop of New York Cardinal Edward Egan will have a passive role. He will be seated on a side of the altar throughout the proceedings while officially presiding over the event.

McDonnell, O'Malley, Egan and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the pope's representative in the United States, will be the main concelebrants of the Mass.

Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, a longtime friend of McDonnell, will attend the installation.

The installation, a brief ceremony, will be followed by a Mass during which McDonnell will deliver the homily.

McDonnell's homily is anticipated to set the spiritual tone to his approach in dealing with a variety of challenges in the diocese.

Besides replacing a bishop facing possible criminal charges in connection with sexual abuse, McDonnell faces resolving clergy sexual abuse lawsuits, restoring credibility of the local church's hierarchy, revitalizing the morale of many disheartened priests while possibly weeding out problem clerics, and closing, merging or yoking many parishes.

National and local church leaders, civic leaders, parish representatives and 1,000 friends and family members of McDonnell have been invited.

McDonnell's only sibling, Brother John J. McDonnell, a missionary in the Philippines, will be unable to attend. McDonnell's parents, who were from County Cork, Ireland, are deceased.


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