Former bishop not listed as ‘credibly accused,’ despite diocesan board’s finding

Berkshire Eagle

May 29, 2019

By Larry Parnass

When one of the longest-serving Western Massachusetts bishops was accused of child sexual abuse, a successor rose to his defense.

“I would hope that the names of good priests and bishops, who cannot defend themselves, are not being impugned for ulterior motives,” the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell said of Christopher J. Weldon, the former bishop, said in a 2005 statement about a civil lawsuit.

“Nothing in our records … in any way would provide support for these allegations,” McDonnell said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Weldon’s name did not appear on the diocese’s online list of “credibly accused clergy” — eight months after officials with the Springfield diocese came to a different conclusion about Weldon.

Last September, the Diocesan Review Board notified the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski that it found a Chicopee man’s story of his molestation by Weldon, more than half a century before, “compelling and credible.”

“We want to express our sincere sorrow for the pain and suffering you have endured,” the board wrote to the man, according to a letter obtained by The Eagle.

In addition to abuse by Weldon, the man told the board of molestation by two priests, the Rev. Edward Authier and the Rev. Clarence Forand.

“As we explained to you, the Board has no other authority except to notify the Bishop that we find your allegations credible,” the letter says.

The newspaper is withholding the man’s identity due to his wish to remain private.

As of Wednesday, the diocese also was not listing Authier as among “credibly accused” clergy. Forand’s name, though, is included under the category of “clergy who died after having been placed under the sanctions of the Essential Norms,” a reference to official Catholic Church policy on responding to abuse allegations.

That policy holds that “when even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from the ecclesiastical ministry.”

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