June 25, 2019
The acknowledgment by the Springfield Diocese that former Catholic Bishop Christopher J. Weldon has been credibly accused of sexually abusing an altar boy is welcome, yet overdue. As is too often the case with dioceses across the nation, Springfield had to be pushed into doing what it should have done at the first opportunity.
Last week, the diocese filed an initial report of a claim of abuse with the office Hampden County District Attorney Gilluni (Eagle, June 22). This came the same day that the Most Rev. Bishop Rozanski met with a Chicopee man who says Bishop Weldon was one of several members of the clergy in the Springfield Diocese who abused him in the 1960s when he was 9 or 10. The Springfield Diocese includes Berkshire County.
The meeting and the referral came three weeks after the diocese denied it had received a credible accusation against Weldon. In response to an Eagle story by Larry Parnass reporting that a diocesan review board had notified the bishop last September that it found the alleged victim’s story about his molestation by Bishop Weldon to be “compelling and credible,” the chairman of the review board, John M. Hale, asserted in a statement released through the diocese that the former altar boy did not accuse Bishop Weldon of abuse to the review board, so the board could not have found that he engaged in improper conduct. This dismayed three people in attendance who recalled hearing the specific allegation made, one of whom, a practicing Catholic and clinical psychologist, accused the diocese of lying as part of a cover-up.
It remains unclear how the chairman of the review board could deny the contents of a letter to the bishop that he presumably signed off on. It is clear, however, that in-house diocesan review boards, which are supposedly independent, aren’t the best way to get at the truth of allegations that directly impact the diocese.
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