Indicted Bishop Won't Be Tried, Statute Expired

Catholic World News [Springfield MA]
September 27, 2004

Prosecutors in western Massachusetts said on Monday that, despite indictments handed down by a grand jury, the retired bishop of Springfield will not be tried because the statute of limitations has expired.

Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett said, "I intend to file a statement ... which will terminate the criminal investigation and prosecution of these matters in Massachusetts." A criminal indictment against Bishop Thomas Dupre on charges of assaulting, abusing, and raping two children under the age of 16 in 1976 and 1979 were handed down by the grand jury on Friday and revealed Monday morning.

Dupre had resigned abruptly in February amid allegations he abused two young men two decades ago. At the time, health problems was given as the reason for his resignation. He has since received treatment of an unspecified nature at St. Luke's Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, where many well-known accused clerical abusers have been treated.

Bennett impanelled the grand jury in March even as a civil lawsuit by the two accusers was filed in court.

Dupre's attorney, Michael Jennings, earlier on Monday had said the six-year statute of limitations had passed. "These charges are barred by the passing of too much time," he said.

Dupre was the first US bishop to be formally charged with sex abuse. The current policy of the US bishops' conference requires that if "even a single act of sexual abuse ... is admitted or established" through the proper channels, the priest must be removed from ministry permanently and may even be laicized. However, the norms do not specifically mention bishops and no such case has ever been tested. Four other bishops have resigned following allegations, but without formal criminal charges being filed. None are currently in active ministry, yet neither have any been laicized.


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