Ex-Bishop's Fate Remains Uncertain

By Bill Zajac
The Republican
July 11, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Not a lot has changed for the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre in the five months since he resigned as bishop of the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese amid allegations of sexual abuse and a subsequent grand jury inquiry.

Legal charges against him remain uncertain. A civil lawsuit is still pending. A church investigation may be continuing.

Also, it appears Dupre remains at St. Luke Institute, the Silver Springs, Md., facility that treats priests with a variety of disorders, including those who have sexually abused children.

Changes appear certain in the weeks or months ahead.

Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett said the grand jury will complete its work on the case by the end of the summer.

However, he said little else about the case in an interview Friday.

"The matter has been before the grand jury and a number of witnesses have testified. Documents have been subpoenaed and are under review," he said.

He would not say how many witnesses testified and whether Dupre was among them.

The grand jury has been hearing testimony and arguments in the Dupre case since Bennett announced March 4 that the allegations were "credible and consistent."

If charges follow, Dupre would become the first U.S. church leader indicted in the current clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Although Bennett has said the investigation is broad and a variety of charges would be considered, it is clear that Bennett faces a number of obstacles, particularly the statutes of limitations and the difficulty of convincing a grand jury - likely a heavily Catholic one - of the probability of a religious leader's guilt.

The potential charges include sexual abuse, failure to report sexual misconduct to proper authorities, concealment of sexual abuse and other matters regarding the reporting of abuse by the diocese while Dupre was in a position to influence reporting of sexual abuse cases.

If the grand jury finishes its work by the end of the summer, it will get its work done sooner than some other grand juries have.

A Boston grand jury spent 16 months looking into clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston before Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly concluded indictments weren't possible. Instead, he produced a 91-page report lambasting former Cardinal Bernard F. Law and others for "massive and prolonged mistreatment of children by priests," prompting what Reilly called "the greatest tragedies to befall children in this Commonwealth."

Federal charges against Dupre or the diocese are also possible. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Regan, who oversees the Springfield office, has offered help to Bennett and has said he intends to see the results of Bennett's investigation before taking any possible action.

Stephen J. Block, a Springfield resident who has accused defrocked priest Richard R. Lavigne of abusing him as a minor, said he met with staff from O'Regan's office recently to discuss possible charges.

Some legal experts have said the Springfield Diocese scandal may meet all the criteria of Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) charges.

Boston lawyer RoderickThomas L. DupreMacLeish Jr., who represents both Dupre accusers, didn't return telephone calls seeking comment.

A civil suit was filed in March by the two men accusing Dupre of sexual abuse, but no pre-trial hearings have been conducted. In a mandatory response to the suit, Dupre invoked the Fifth Amendment. His lawyer says it isn't an admission of guilt, but an exercise of Dupre's right to remain silent. A trial date will be established at the final pre-trial hearing scheduled for March 6.

Meanwhile, the Vatican initiated its own investigation into the allegations against Dupre within days of the allegations becoming public.

Although Springfield diocesan and Boston archdiocesan officials interviewed the two alleged victims, they were uncertain how the rest of the probe would proceed and whether the results of the probe would ever be released.

Springfield diocesan officials referred inquiries to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Pope John Paul II's representative to the United States.

A member of Montalvo's staff said he didn't conduct telephone interviews and suggested to The Republican that written questions be mailed to him.

Questions about the status of the probe were sent more than a month ago. No response has been received.

Dupre's treatment at St. Luke Institute is likely nearing an end.

Although the facility is prevented by law from releasing information regarding patients, and the diocese couldn't confirm Dupre is still there, Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk believes Dupre is still receiving treatment there.

"These programs usually last six months. I expect that he'll be there another month," said Sniezyk.

Sniezyk said he received a reply more than a month ago from a note he sent Dupre.

"He said he was starting to come out of the fog of what he's been through," said Sniezyk, the vicar general who served as interim administrator in the diocese between Dupre's resignation and the installation of the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell as bishop six weeks later.

Dupre checked into St. Luke Institute on Feb. 10, the day he was confronted by The Republican with allegations that he sexually abused two boys when they were minors more than 20 years ago.

Dupre's resignation, attributed to health reasons, was announced the next day by the diocese. The announcement said Dupre was retiring at age 70, five years earlier than the mandatory retirement age for bishops.

Sniezyk said there has been no official communication between Dupre and the diocese since his resignation.

"With pending court cases, he probably has been instructed by his lawyer not to speak with the diocese," said Sniezyk.

Dupre's lawyer Michael O. Jennings is saying very little.

"We are waiting to see where the process will go," said Jennings, adding that he speaks with his client "whenever necessary."

Meanwhile, Dupre remains a retired bishop in good standing and receiving full retirement benefits, according to the diocese.

The diocese is complying with guidelines established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding retired bishops.

The guidelines include a monthly stipend of at least $1,500, appropriate housing and board, complete health insurance benefits, an automobile, all expenses for trips to provincial, regional and national bishops meetings and workshops as well as possible occasional visits to the Vatican.

Diocesan officials said they are unsure of Dupre's plans upon release from St. Luke Institute. He and his brother James of Ipswich are listed as co-owners of their deceased mother's home at 90 Beaver Road in Ware, according to the Ware Assessor's Office.


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