Dianne Williamson: Some lessons still to learn for church

Telegram & Gazette

January 27, 2018

By Dianne Williamson

For 25 years, Peter Inzerillo has been quietly directing a community chorale of “high-quality music” in Leominster. In the mid-’90s, however, he was singing a different tune.

Back then, as the Rev. Peter, he was busy denying claims that he sexually abused a 19-year-old teen who had turned to him for help after being abused by another priest. Those denials would ring false, however, when in 1999 the diocese paid Inzerillo’s accuser $300,000, one of the largest settlements reached by the Diocese of Worcester, which then promptly reassigned the disgraced priest to another parish.

When I learned last week that Peter Inzerillo had finally been defrocked, more than two decades after his alleged acts opened a window to the church’s systemic failure to shield children from abuse, I was flooded by memories of a church that for decades had covered up the grave crimes committed by its priests. I was also filled with admiration for the brave people who confronted the church years before it was acceptable to do so, years before The Boston Globe’s Spotlight series blew the scandal wide open, back when victims were at the mercy of strident church lawyers and doubtful, defensive Catholics.

One of those victims was Ed Gagne, a soft-spoken Spencer man who aspired to the priesthood himself when he met Peter Inzerillo, then the diocese’s vocational director. He told the priest he had been abused six years earlier by another priest, and Inzerillo offered to counsel him.

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