Petition Asks Bishop to Apologize

By Bill Zajac
Republican [East Longmeadow MA]
May 15, 2004

EAST LONGMEADOW - A petition asking the bishop to apologize to their pastor, the Rev. James J. Scahill, will be circulated by St. Michael's parishioners at weekend Masses at their church today and tomorrow.

"We are outraged the bishop compared our pastor with (Richard R.) Lavigne," said John M. Bowen, a St. Michael's parishioner.

Scahill has been critical of the current and previous bishop over matters related to clergy sex abuse. Scahill said during a dispute Tuesday that the bishop said Scahill was as destructive to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield as defrocked priest Lavigne, a convicted child molester who has been accused by about 40 people of abusing them as minors.

Thursday the bishop, the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, apologized to alleged sex abuse victims and their families for making the comment, saying Scahill's "sniping" "has caused additional division in the church."

The failure of McDonnell to apologize to Scahill has angered alleged clergy sexual abuse victims, their supporters and Catholics who back Scahill's work with victims and his willingness to challenge church authority.

"We want the bishop to know that we at St. Michael's are not uneducated peasants comfortable in a feudal futile society," Bowen said.

Bowen stressed the petition was the idea of several parishioners and that it will be circulated by parishioners before and after Masses at 4 p.m. today and 8, 10 and 11:30 a.m. tomorrow. He said Scahill was not consulted about the petition.

Bowen criticized McDonnell's apology.

"He negated the apology by taking a swipe at Scahill. So who is really sniping?" asked Bowen.

"The bishop behaved unprofessionally. He lost his temper and that is cause for concern," said Bowen.

Meanwhile, Bowen expressed hope that Scahill and McDonnell can put aside their differences and work together.

Scahill has a one-on-one meeting with the bishop Monday. It was scheduled about a month ago.

"I hope their meeting goes well," said Bowen, a retired college bookstore manager.


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