|Judge Rules Suit against Bishop Thomas L. Dupre and Bishop Emeritus Joseph F. Maguire Can Go Forward
By Buffy Spencer
June 10, 2011
SPRINGFIELD - Hampden Superior Court Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty has ruled a civil suit filed against two Roman Catholic bishops by a man who said he was abused by a priest will stay on track to go to trial.
Lawyers for Bishop Emeritus Joseph F. Maguire and Bishop Thomas L. Dupre had argued for a dismissal of the suit filed in 2009 by Williamstown resident Andrew F. Nicastro, saying the statute of limitations had expired.
Nicastro sued Maguire and Dupre alleging negligent supervision resulted in him being abused as a child by a priest in Williamstown.
Moriarty said because Nicastro didn’t realize until several years ago the harm the childhood abuse had caused, the case falls within the limits of the law.
“I’m glad to get this far. I’m glad the dismissal is disallowed,” Nicastro said before a pre-trial conference Thursday.
At the pre-trial conference all parties agreed to a new pre-trial conference date of Sept. 12.
John J. Egan, lawyer for Maguire, told Moriarty right now Dupre is having a health problem and is confined to his bed in a nursing home. Egan said a major medical problem from about a year ago has been resolved.
John J. Stobierski, Nicastro’s lawyer, said, “We know of no other case in Western Massachusetts where a judge in response to a motion to dismiss allowed the case to go forward because the victim had met the burden to show they could not connect the harm to their abuse to later in life.”
“In Massachusetts there are decisions that go both ways,” he said. “So it is somewhat of an unsettled area of law.”
Nicastro, a former altar boy, alleges he was molested by the former Rev. Alfred Graves between 1982 and 1984 at St. Patrick’s Parish in Williamstown. Graves has since been defrocked.
The suit named Maguire, at the time the Springfield diocese bishop; Dupre, then a chancellor and third in command of the diocese; and the Rev. Richard S. Sniezyk, who was Graves’ supervisor, stating they knew about the molestation and did nothing about it.
Sniezyk was previously dropped as a defendant.
Dupre was bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield until 2004 when he retired suddenly after being confronted by The Republican with allegations that he molested two boys in the 1970s. He was indicted later, but the case was dropped because the statute of limitations had passed.
The suit does not name Graves or the diocese. Graves, who has been named as an abuser in other suits filed against the diocese, was barred from presenting himself as a priest in the 1990s and officially defrocked by the Vatican in 2006.
Stobierski has said the suit against Dupre is different from any other priest abuse complaint filed in the United States because it involves a defendant who has been accused of child molestation and supervised another accused of the same type of crime.
After a barrage of lawsuits early last decade, the suit is one of the few civil complaints filed since 2005. The diocese paid out $7.7 million to dozens of claimants in 2004 and agreed to pay another $4.5 million to 59 alleged abuse victims in 2008. Those costs were offset by an $8.5 million settlement between the diocese and three insurance companies.
Egan told Moriarty that Nicastro had declined to participate in the arbitration set up to settle abuse cases.
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