Bishop Will Concelebrate Victims Mass

By Bill Zajac
Republican [Springfield MA]
August 31, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - A maverick parish priest and the bishop of the Springfield diocese who have been embroiled in several public verbal battles will celebrate a Mass together Sept. 12 for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

The Rev. James J. Scahill, pastor of St. Michael's Parish in East Longmeadow, and the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, will concelebrate the 10 a.m. service at St. Michael's.

The diocese also announced yesterday it is funding a $50,000 grant to hire a victim resource coordinator who will help clergy sexual abuse victims access health and social services.

Scahill and McDonnell have come to verbal blows several times since McDonnell was installed as bishop April 1.

Most of the fights have centered around the handling of convicted child molester and defrocked priest Richard R. Lavigne, whom Scahill wanted severed from financial support from the diocese. Scahill had withheld a percentage of the parish's weekly collection to protest the support of Lavigne. The diocese eventually ended Lavigne's support.

Scahill said it was on behalf of his parish as well as himself that McDonnell was invited to participate in the service.

"In the name of the people of St. Michael's Parish, I express the hope that many of the victims and their families will gather with us in fellowship and worship of the Lord God. He alone we serve, and to him alone we listen," Scahill said.

McDonnell, who is in Rome meeting with the pope along with other New England bishops, was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, the diocese has mailed a request for proposal to local private, nonprofit agencies to solicit applications for the one-year coordinator's position. The position will operate independently of the diocese.

Martin P. Bono, 49, of Chicopee, who filed suit against the diocese saying he was abused as a child, requested that the diocese fund the position.

Bono said the coordinator could help victims access services including mental health, housing and vocational training.

"I don't want to see survivors here suffer because they couldn't get help for themselves," Bono said.

Bono said he believes Shawn M. Dobbert, who also had filed suit against the diocese, would be alive today if the coordinator's position had existed several months ago.

Dobbert, who said he was emotionally troubled and had health problems, was found dead in his North Adams apartment Aug. 10. North Adams police said yesterday they are awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of death.

"Regardless of how Shawn Dobbert died, he could have been helped by this," Bono said.

Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski, who represented Bono and Dobbert and 45 other alleged clergy abuse victims who recently settled claims against the diocese, agreed with Bono.

"Shawn was a needy person in all sorts of ways. He could have used this," said Stobierski.

Stobierski lauded the diocese for supporting the position.

"People fall through the cracks. This will help prevent that. Some may need help with vocations. For others, it may be short-term housing or substance abuse help," Stobierski said.


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