Ex-judge upholds sex abuse claims against late bishop

Daily Hampshire Gazette

June 24, 2020

By Scott Merzbach

[Note from BishopAccountability.org: The Velis report was released in a 100 megabyte PDF that was not searchable. We made the PDF searchable and reduced its size by half without changing the content in any way. The link above is to the searchable and smaller PDF. This smaller PDF is still 52 megabytes and will be difficult for some readers to download. So we have also posted the reduced-size searchable report in pieces: the text, the exhibits, and the photo exhibits with appendix. The 100 megabyte report with OCR is available here.]

Springfield – Those investigating sexual abuse complaints against late bishop Christopher J. Weldon failed in their duties to report their findings to prosecutorial authorities, a reluctance likely caused by Weldon’s “prominence and revered legacy in the religious community,” retired Judge Peter A. Velis wrote in his investigative report into the allegations released to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

In his 373-page report, released Wednesday, Velis criticized how the Diocesan Review Board handled the initial allegations of sexual abuse against Weldon, calling the response both “weak” and “woefully deficient,” and finding that the allegations by a Chicopee man are legitimate.

“These accusations are unequivocally credible,” Velis said at a press conference at the Bishop Marshall Center Wednesday afternoon, noting that there will be a great deal of pain felt by members of the diocese for calling out the bishop’s “evil misdeeds.” Velis added that he allowed for the highest standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be fair to the bishop, who died in 1982 and has been unable to defend himself.

Velis wrote that he was disappointed in how investigators assessed the complaint.

“In response to my charge in assessing how the diocese responded to the complainant, I conclude from the myriad of evidentiary factors expressed in my final report that from the inception of the complaint through the follow-up process, the procedure was greatly flawed,” Velis wrote.

Archbishop-designate Mitchell T. Rozanski, who appointed Velis, said he accepts the findings and as such ordered the immediate removal of Weldon’s name from the rehabilitation facility at Mercy Medical Center, that his remains be moved from its current cemetery to a less prominent location, and that all honorable mentions and photos of Weldon in churches, offices and other buildings be taken down. In addition, Weldon’s name will be placed on the diocese website alongside other priests, deacons and bishops, who have faced credible accusations of sexual abuse of children or adults.

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