Judge Velis appointment another chapter in diocesan history surrounding clergy sex abuse

The Republican

July 23, 2019

By Anne-Gerard Flynn

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has its own history in the global Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis dating back decades. And that history continues with its recent announcement that retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis will investigate allegations of sexual misconduct involving the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon.

The concern of lawyers defending the Springfield Diocese over time, as one put it back in 2003, has been showing that “the diocese didn’t have knowledge of any abuse that may or may not have been committed.” While this defense has largely succeeded, the allegations against Weldon and appointment of Velis open the door once again to questions of what diocesan hierarchy knew about the abuse of minors as far back as the 1950s when Weldon became bishop.

Many of the subsequently reported allegations of sexual abuse of minors occurred during Weldon’s 27 years as bishop, and the murder of an altar boy in which a former priest remains the only publicly identified suspect also occurred during his tenure.

In 2003, it was Judge Velis who ordered the release of documents filed in the investigation of former priest Richard R. Lavigne in the brutal 1972 killing of 13-year-old Daniel Croteau of Chicopee. The state Appeals Court overturned Velis’ ruling only to have the Supreme Judicial Court uphold it in 2004.

Buishop Rozanski was directed to provide the Apostolic Nuncio’s offices in Washington D.C. all information regarding this matter.

There have been allegations in such publications as E.J. Fleming’s 2018 book, “Death of an Altar Boy: The Unsolved Murder of Danny Croteau and the Culture of Abuse in the Catholic Church,” that Weldon obstructed justice in the police investigation.

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