Vatican Defrocks 2 Area Priests
By Fred Contrada
December 2, 2006
Greenfield - With a few strokes of a pen, Pope Benedict XVI has severed from the priesthood two men accused of sexually molesting boys in Western Massachusetts. Resolution is not so neat for some of their alleged victims.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield was notified this week that the Vatican has defrocked Edward M. Kennedy and Alfred C. Graves. Both served as priests at various parishes in the area and both have been accused of sexually molesting minors.
"Both had a number of credible allegations of sex misconduct brought before them," said diocese spokesman Mark E. Dupont. "Both had been suspended. They were not allowed to present themselves as priests."
Neither Kennedy nor Graves could be reached for comment.
Along with a score of other local priests, Kennedy and Graves have also been named in two major lawsuits against the diocese. One suit, involving 46 victims, was settled in 2004 for more than $7 million. The other, which has 35 plaintiffs, is pending.
At the law offices of Stobierski & Stobierski yesterday, Paul Herrick and Stephen Rogalski described the laicization of the two priests as bittersweet. Herrick and Rogalski, who grew up together in Greenfield, said they were molested repeatedly by Kennedy and other priests over a period of years in the 1970s. Neither man knows Graves, although lawyer John J. Stobierski said his firm also represents one of Graves' alleged victims.
"This is a continuing saga in a very long story," said Stobierski. "We believe this is a critical step in getting justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse."
Herrick, a former altar boy at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Greenfield, estimated that he was molested more than 250 times by five different priests between 1976 and 1981. His main tormentor, he said, was the late Rev. J. Roy Jenness, who took Herrick to a house in Sturbridge where he was molested by several priests.
"It was a pass-around-a-little-boy party," he said.
Kennedy also molested him over a period of years, Herrick said, often at the Spanish Apostolate in Springfield. Herrick is among those whose suit against the diocese had yet to be settled. Although he took some satisfaction in Kennedy's defrocking, Herrick said he is still a long way from closure.
"For Ed Kennedy, he has some sense of resolution," he said. "For me, I'm not over this yet."
Rogalski, who now lives in Northampton, said he was also molested by Kennedy when the priest was at Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield in the 1970s. Although his suit has been settled, Rogalski said Kennedy still haunts him through his boyhood friend, Herrick.
"It affects me to see him struggle and not be able to put it all behind him," he said.
Dupont said that an ongoing dispute between the diocese and its insurer has delayed a settlement with the 35 victims in Herrick's suit.
"We have every intention to eventually reach a settlement with any legitimate victims that are out there," he said.
Although Kennedy, 73, and Graves, 65, had already been barred by the diocese from presenting themselves as priests in public, they were still able to say Mass in private and received financial support from the church. The Vatican's action removed any vestige of their office and stripped them of their financial status, Dupont said. Because both men are ill, the diocese will continue to cover their health expenses until universal health care coverage is enacted in Massachusetts next year, he said.
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