Springfield Diocese Ends Support to Pedophile Priest

By Adam Gorlick
Associated Press, carried in Telegram & Gazette [Springfield MA]
Downloaded May 27, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.- Defrocked pedophile priest Richard Lavigne will be removed from the payroll of the Springfield Diocese next week, a church spokesman said Thursday.

As a result, a parish priest who has withheld money from the church in protest of its financial support of Lavigne said he will now hand over about $60,000 to the diocese.

New Bishop Timothy McDonnell has decided to stop paying a $1,030 monthly stipend to Lavigne, effective May 31, diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont said.

Lavigne, who was convicted in 1992 of molesting two boys and has been accused in civil lawsuits of abusing about a dozen more, will also lose the $8,800 a year in health insurance coverage he has received since he was removed from his priestly duties in 1992.

"It's about time," said Tom Martin, who says he was abused by Lavigne as a child. "I can't imagine the support went on for this long. Let him go out and get a job. I have to work, so should he."

Lavigne, who lives in Chicopee, was defrocked by Pope John Paul II in November, more than a decade after he pleaded guilty to abusing two boys.

He was also suspected by authorities but never charged with killing altar boy Danny Croteau in 1972. Croteau's parents believe Lavigne abused Danny, and killed him to stop him from reporting it. Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett says the Croteau murder is still under investigation.

In the 1990s, the diocese settled suits for $1.4 million with 17 men who accused Lavigne of abusing them.

Within the past two years, at least 15 other people have sued Lavigne and the diocese, claiming they were abused as children.

The Rev. James Scahill, an East Longmeadow priest who has been critical of how the diocese has handled the clergy sex abuse crisis, began withholding a percentage of weekly collections from his congregation that was earmarked for the diocese. The move, he said, was to protest the church's financial support of Lavigne.

When he learned McDonnell was cutting the diocese's financial ties to Lavigne, Scahill said he will give the $60,000 to the diocese "at my first opportunity."

"It's a good day for the church of Springfield and especially for the victims and their families," Scahill said. "I'm so proud of my congregations, because we can miserably fail God simply by doing nothing; risking nothing. They were willing to let me do this and take this risk."