July 29, 2019
By Anne-Gerard Flynn
Attorney John J. Stobierski was not surprised when he read news reports this spring that a man had come forward with accusations he had been sexually molested by the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon during the 1950s.
“During the years I represented survivors of abuse, I heard a number of references to Weldon,” said Stobierski who litigated and negotiated more than five dozen clergy sexual abuse cases with settlements totaling more than $10 million. “I am absolutely not surprised.”
Weldon served from 1950 through 1977 as the fourth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, the diocese’s ninth bishop, met in June with the most recent alleged victim to come forward with claims of sexual abuse by Weldon. Rozanski announced last week that retired Superior Court Judge Peter J. Velis would lead an investigation into the allegations.
Stobierski described Velis as “a man of integrity,” but added what the investigation yields will depend on what Velis has access to and what accountability is given to the public.
In short, Stobierski said, Velis “needs free rein.”
“Will he truly be an independent force?,” asked Stobierski who represented 46 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse who settled claims with the diocese for $7.75 million in 2004, and 28 of the 59 survivors in the $4.5 million settlement reached in 2008.
He added, “Will he be entitled to all information, will everyone associated with the diocese be told they are duty-bound to cooperate with him, will he have to sign a confidentiality agreement?”
“The report,” Stobierski said, “needs to be made public. Good, bad or indifferent, the investigation and its findings need to see the light of day. Lack of transparency is what continues to dog this diocese.”
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