Worcester Bishop Robert McManus Lives the Life of Luxury While Clergy Abuse Victims Are Thrown a Few Meager Crumbs

Worcester Voice [Worcester MA]
Downloaded January 10, 2005

A review of the financial report recently issued by the Diocese of Worcester for the 2004 fiscal year reveals a budget of $33,771,673. The bishop appears to live very well at a time when the amount of money budgeted for victims of clergy sexual abuse is only pennies on the dollar.

The Worcester diocese, unlike any other diocese in the United States, has refused to settle clergy abuse allegations in group settlements. Legal representation of Goulka and Reardon continue to advocate for dismissal of the remaining civil lawsuits, which would leave the victims with nothing.

The pledge of Bishop Robert J. McManus at his installation last May to heal the wounded has proven to be without merit. Bishop McManus lives the lifestyle that resembles a king with a budget for his residence of $107,000 for one person to live on. His office obtained an additional $209,047 in funds. With one-third of a million dollars in expenditures, it hardly seems like the bishops live a life of poverty.

The cases involving clergy sexual abuse that have been settled are said to be in the range of $3,000 to $7,000 and $10,000 is the top disclosure. It is also difficult to get more information since these suits are being written with confidentiality agreements. Clergy abuse victim Mr. David Lewcone reported the Worcester dioceses paid him $110,000, after he was sexually abuse by Fr Thomas Teczar, other reported payments are as high as $800,000 for one Rev. Robert Kelley victim in the 90's.

Of the 38 lawsuits filed against the diocese, 13 remain to be settled. Gavin Reardon, who represents the diocese in the lawsuits, said the diocese is seeking dismissal of the remaining 13 civil lawsuits based on issues of First Amendment rights due to the diocese and the issue of the statue of limitations that would make some cases too old to litigate. The diocese is also citing a previous ruling by a Springfield judge that upheld the state law that granted charitable immunity to religious institutions and caps the amounts of settlements at $20,000. Currently the ruling on the motion by Justice Jeffrey Locke in Worcester Superior Court has not been released.

According to recent articles in the Worcester Telegram, Monsignor Thomas Sullivan, diocesan chancellor whose office received $74,000 in the budget, disclosed that he felt the pending clergy abuse civil suit were of little merit. His office received more money than any clergy abuse victim in the last year and may well exceed the total of all payments applied. Monsignor Sullivan additionally was identified in a legal deposition this year with holding clergy abuse information in a "secret" file he keeps within the chancery, placing a serious question on his credibility. With Monsignor Sullivan’s additional position as liaison to the district attorney’s office the "secret Grand Jury" action further appears to have granted legal protection to the diocese.

In a September 2004 deposition, Bishop Reilly disclosed that the Priests’ Assistance Fund was responsible for payments to priests who have been removed from ministry for allegations of sexual abuse. A review of documents shows the Worcester diocese has 28 priests eligible to receive such compensation. The fund in the 2004 fiscal year that ended on August 31, 2004 had $349,457. It is not known how much of this money is actually paid to these priests because the diocese said the money could also go to priests placed on medical leave.

A review of the Diocesan Directory indicated only four priests could be identified as being on possible medical leave. If the bishop’s pledge for transparency was being honored we would have truthful disclosure and these questions would be honestly answers. The American bishops signed off on a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People at the June 2002 meeting in Dallas, Texas. A section of the charter says that "each diocese will develop a communications policy that reflects a commitment to transparency and openness" and that diocese "will deal as openly as possible with members of the community."

The Worcester diocese’s Office for Healing received $170,845 in operational expenditures. Again we see a huge difference in monies given to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and the administrators. Attorney Patty Engdahl’s salary for directing that office has never been publicly disclosed. Her office also include Mrs. Frankie Nugent, a part-time victims advocate. Add the additional legal services of $131,875 and the total expense is $302,720. But the victims have gotten zero.

The Office of Healing and Prevention has remained silent in the face of legal abuse perpetrated upon the victims of clergy abuse in the diocese and at no time has either Ms. Engdahl or Ms. Nugent stood publicly and chastised the diocese insurance attorney, Ms. Joanne Goulka, for the harsh and rash treatment of many of those alleged victims. The office has not tried to advocate for fair and equitable monetary settlements. This office has failed to reach out to those who have been victimized by the church scandal. Horror stories were released in 2004. One victim was issued a legal notice after her attempt to contact the bishop’s office, a move on her part she said was made at request of the bishop.

The Worcester diocese today remains in turmoil. We have seen a resurgence of the Voice of the Faithful movement with David O’Brien, well-known professor at Holy Cross College, leading the drive with a strong take no nonsense approach.

Seven new clergy abuse civil suits have been filed, named three previously unknown Worcester clergy members. The latest civil suit – WOCV2005-0002 – additionally names District Attorney John Conte as a defendant. Also, action is in progress to seek criminal charges of child endangerment and a meeting is planned this week with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.


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