Victim Says Key Meeting with Former Pastor Never Happened
By Father Bill Pomerleau
July 26, 2012
SPRINGFIELD – In the second day of emotional testimony in a civil trial against Springfield Bishop Emeritus Joseph F. Maguire and former Springfield Bishop Thomas L. Dupre, the plaintiff, Andrew Nicastro, denied that he ever spoke to a former pastor of Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish in Williamstown
about his childhood sexual abuse by Alfred C. Graves a former diocesan priest who was laicized in 2006.
What the plaintiff’s attorneys called “the alleged meeting” could be a crucial element in the outcome of the trial, which is determining if the two former diocesan bishops were negligent in returning then-Father Graves to ministry after they knew he had a history of abuse.
Father William F. Cyr, who was pastor of the Williamstown parish from 1989 to 2002, testified early in the day, before Nicastro was called to the stand. He said that sometime between 2000 and 2002, he received a phone call from Nicastro requesting a meeting.
Nicastro arrived at the St. Patrick Rectory with his father, and revealed that “something nasty had happened between him and Al Graves,” Father Cyr testified.
“He never used the word ‘molested.’ But I had heard from parishioners about an incident years earlier when Drew was kicked out of the rectory by Graves. By that time Graves was no longer in ministry and I could see that Drew was very upset, so I told him about the (Diocese of Springfield’s) abuse hotline,” said Father Cyr, who is currently the pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in North Adams.
Before Father Cyr officially testified, Judge Constance Sweeney dismissed the jury so that she could hear what he would say in advance in a “voir dire” session.
After hearing Father Cyr speak, Nicastro attorney Danielle J. Barshark unsuccessfully argued that since Nicastro had come to the priest for spiritual counseling, it was covered under law protecting the confidentiality of the priest-penitent relationship. She argued that only Nicastro could waive the confidentiality of what he told a priest.
Judge Sweeney quickly cut off Barshak’s argumentation, ruling that when an adult brings a parent to a meeting with a priest, it is far removed from the legal definition of spiritual counseling.
Kevin Murphy, a retired state police detective who serves as a misconduct investigator for the diocese, was the next witness. He recounted his October 2008 investigation of Nicastro’s abuse complaint to the diocesan misconduct review board.
“I asked him who else he had told about his abuse. He said he told his wife shortly before his wedding that he had been abused, and he said he had told Father Cyr,” Murphy testified.
“I went to Father Cyr the same day, and he confirmed this meeting,” Murphy added.
During a second session of questioning by his attorney, John Stobierski, Nicastro directly contradicted Father Cyr’s testimony.
“The meeting with Father Cyr never happened,” said Nicastro, the former operator of Isabella’s Restaurant in Williamstown.
In addition to determining whether or not that meeting occurred, the jurors must decide if Nicastro waited too long to file his complaint, regardless of the bishops’ actions.
Under state law, adults have limited window to file a civil complaint against someone who abused them as a child, unless the plaintiff only recently realized that the long-ago abuse had a severe impact on his or her mental or emotional health.
Jurors also heard Wednesday from a man who grew up in the Pine Point neighborhood of Springfield. The witness, who is now a professional living in New York City, testified that Graves once placed his hands down his pants and fondled him when he was an eighth-grade altar boy at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish.
“I was 13 or 14 at the time, and was weirded out. From that point on I was a little leery of Father Graves, and that’s probably why I stopped being an altar boy,” he testified.
The witness said that since he had no further interaction with Father Graves, he was able to forget about the incident for a few years, and never told his parents. But when a friend of his from the parish reported being more severely abused by the then-parochial vicar, he decided to tell his story in support of his friend.
The man said that he accompanied his friend and his friend’s irate father to a meeting with Bishop Maguire. “The bishop seemed incredulous. He tried to act comforting to my friend, but when the bishop suggested that his incident might have been ‘horseplay,’ the father got very upset.”
Since this witness has not filed any legal action against the church or church officials, nor sought publicity for his own story, iobserve.org is honoring his request to remain anonymous in the media. It is unclear if his friend, or his friend’s father, who have been parties to legal actions against the diocese, will testify in the coming days.
Tomorrow’s trial is expected to include a cross-examination of Nicastro by attorneys for the bishops. It may also include testimony from Nicastro family members, and testimony from mental health experts.
Attorneys for both sides expect that Bishop Maguire may testify next Monday.