Diocese of Springfield MA
June 2, 2021
By Bishop William D. Byrne
[This page also includes a video message from Bishop William Byrne.]
[The following letter appears as an embedded PDF on the page.]
May 24, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
Since my arrival in the Diocese of Springfield, I have been committed to transparency and communication particularly with regard to the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, religious and lay church staff. It is an open wound that has remained for far too long.
Today I am writing to address these painful sins and crimes that have broken countless hearts, shattered lives and have cast a dark shadow over our Church.
In recent months I have met with many survivors and family members. I have heard from these courageous individuals that the way the diocese responded to their reports of abuse was re-traumatizing and re-victimizing. As your bishop, please accept my sincere apology and my commitment towards working to regain your trust. I am fully committed to doing all that I can to change the culture of the diocese.
With that in mind, I am announcing a significant development in our commitment to transparency and accountability here in the Diocese of Springfield. The diocese is expanding its criteria for disclosure of all those with a finding of credibility of sexual abuse of a minor while serving in the diocese.
An allegation is deemed to be credible if there is reasonable cause to believe that the sexual abuse occurred. It is most similar to a grand jury indictment in our legal system. While it is not a definitive finding of guilt, the public acknowledgement of those credible allegations is a critically important action that the diocese owes to those survivors who have so courageously stepped forward.
The new list will now include posthumous allegations deemed to be credible by either the Diocesan Review Board or its predecessor, the Misconduct Commission. An updated version of the disclosure document will be posted to diospringfield.org in early June.
This will result in a considerable addition to the list which previously appeared on our diocesan web site. Many of these credible allegations were previously excluded from our list because the accused was deceased when the allegation surfaced, was a member of a religious order, or were lay employees of the diocese.
It is important to note that these are not new allegations. Rather these findings date back many years.
Prior to this release, the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance conducted a thorough review of all cases to assure we were applying the same standard for names now being listed. To ensure that the process was rigorous and consistent, an independent review was conducted by Dr. Raina Lamande, a forensic psychologist, faculty member and researcher from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Going forward, the names of additional individuals found to have credible claims of sexual abuse of minors will be added to the list, based on new information or a new evaluation by the Diocesan Review Board.
The expanded disclosure policy is only one element of our response to receiving an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. Currently, all allegations are immediately reported to law enforcement and we cooperate fully in their investigations.
I encourage anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse by clergy or any personnel of the diocese, to report this directly to law enforcement as well as to the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance at (413) 452- 0624, through our confidential toll-free number (800) 842-9055, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is my belief that this expanded disclosure of names is a necessary action as part of fulfilling my commitment of transparency and healing. We owe this to the courageous survivors and their loved ones who have suffered the unimaginable pain of sexual abuse. We owe this to our Catholic community left devastated and disillusioned by this scourge. We owe this also to the many faithful priests who serve with great devotion.
As a Church, both locally and universally, too many times in the past we have failed to protect the innocence and dignity of minors from those who committed these heinous crimes. We can never erase the harm done, however, acknowledging a survivor’s allegations to be credible brings the truth of their horrific experience into the light. I offer my most sincere apology to all who have suffered from the abuse and to their loved ones. I am truly sorry.
My commitment to assuring that the Catholic Church here in western Massachusetts is employing the best practices possible in receiving, evaluating allegations, and employing pastoral care to any person abused in this diocese is absolute. As we make this expanded disclosure announcement, I expect more changes in our systems will be identified and recommended by the Independent Task Force on the Response to Sexual Abuse within the Diocese of Springfield.
As we make ongoing changes to our policies and procedures, we also need to engage spiritually to cast out this evil. I invite you to join me for a Holy Hour for all whose lives have been impacted by the abuse crisis on Thursday, June 3 at 7pm at St. Michael’s Cathedral. I also strongly encourage all parishes to hold similar devotional services.
I pray fervently first and foremost for all survivors of sexual abuse, living and deceased, whose burden no person should ever have to bear. I also ask for God’s forgiveness of our Church’s past failures and that God will guide us in our continued resolve to effect the actions necessary for healing and the determination to bring about meaningful and sustainable change.
I am your Friend in Christ,
Most Rev. William D. Byrne
Bishop of Springfield
The Diocese of Springfield (“Diocese”) has previously published a list of clergy whom a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been made against them while they were living. However, the names of clergy who were deceased when the allegation was reported, the names of priests from religious orders who ministered in the Diocese and lay church staff were not included.
The list published here contains the names of clergy who have engaged in public ministry in the Diocese and have had a finding of credibility of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, including those who were living at the time the allegation was brought forward as well as those who were deceased at the time the allegation was reported to the Diocese. The list also includes the names of laypersons who were employed in a ministry of the Diocese of Springfield and have had a finding of credibly of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor while working for the diocese. Finally, the names of clergy from another diocese, eparchy or religious order who ministered within the Diocese who had a finding of credibly of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in the Diocese, and the determination was made by their diocese, eparchy or religious order, are also included.
Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor that were determined to be credible by the Misconduct Commission for Diocesan Personnel (1992 – 2004) or the Diocesan Review Board (2004 – present) were included on the list based on the following criteria:
- Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a bishop, priest, deacon, other religious, or lay employee who is/was incardinated, assigned to public ministry, or employed by the Diocese of Springfield;
- The allegation has been determined to be credible by the Misconduct Commission for Diocesan Personnel (1992-2004) or the Review Board (2004-present); and/or
- The allegation has been determined to be credible by another diocese, eparchy or religious order and has been verified by the Diocese of Springfield through a primary source.
- Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric who is/was incardinated, assigned to public ministry, or employed by the Diocese of Springfield that were not assessed by the Misconduct Commission for Diocesan Personnel (1992-2004) or the Review Board (2004-present); and,
- Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor who were assessed by the Misconduct Commission for Diocesan Personnel (1993-2004) or Review Board (2004-present) that did not result in a documented finding of credibility; and
- Allegations of individuals not associated with and outside the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Springfield.
The Diocesan Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance conducted a systematic review of all cases to assure the same standard for names now being listed was applied. To ensure that the process was rigorous and consistent, an independent review was conducted by Dr. Raina V. Lamade, a forensic psychologist, faculty member, and researcher from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (see Dr. Raina V. Lamade’s Summary of Finding). The published list reflects the findings of the findings of these reviews.
While the Diocese has taken great care in the preparation of this list, we recognize that this information may still be imperfect. Going forward, the names of additional individuals found to have credible findings of sexual abuse of minors will be added to the list, based on new information or a new evaluation by the Diocesan Review Board.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What names are on this list?
- Are these new allegations?
- Why is the list being updated?
- What is a credible allegation?
- What kind of an investigation currently takes place when an allegation is made?
- Is a priest or deacon still in ministry while the investigation is being conducted?
- What happens to a member of clergy if an allegation is deemed credible?
- What Church penalty can be imposed for a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor?
- What does dismissal from the clerical state mean for the priest or deacon?
- How is the reputation of a priest restored if the allegations of sexual abuse of a minor are not found to be credible?
- What support is available to a person who as a minor was sexually abused by a representative of the diocese?
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
This glossary is provided to help readers understand Church language used throughout the report.
- Assigned to a Life of Prayer and Penance
- Canon Law
- Clerical State
- Credible Allegation
- Dismissal from the Clerical State – or – Laicization (involuntary)
- Dispensation from the Clerical State – or – Laicization (voluntary)
- Misconduct Commission for Diocesan Personnel
- Removal of Faculties/Restriction of Faculties
- Removed from Public Ministry
- Review Board
- Sexual Abuse of a Minor
The list includes the following three main categories:
Finding of Credibility of an Allegation of Sexual Abuse of a Minor:
Includes bishops, priests, deacons, other religious, and lay employees whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was made and it was determined to be credible using the standard defined above and who were incardinated in the Diocese of Springfield, assigned for public ministry in the Diocese of Springfield, or employed by the Diocese of Springfield. This category is divided into five subcategories: (A) Incardinated in the Diocese of Springfield; (B) Deceased Clergy Incardinated in the Diocese of Springfield for Whom Criminal of Canonical Proceedings Were Not Completed; (C) Other Diocese; (D) Religious Order; and (E) Lay Employee. For those in sub-categories C and D, respectively, the priest was incardinated in another diocese or was a member of a religious order but exercised public ministry in the Diocese of Springfield.
Finding of Credibility of an Allegation of Sexual Abuse of a Minor: Determined to be Credible by Another Diocese or Religious Order
Includes priests or other religious and against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was made that has been determined to be credible by another diocese or religious order and who were assigned to public ministry in the Diocese of Springfield. This category is divided into one subcategory: (A) Public Ministry within the Diocese of Springfield. For those in this subcategory, the priest was incardinated in another diocese or was a member of a religious order and exercised public ministry in the Diocese of Springfield.
Finding of Credibility of an Allegation Sexual Misconduct Involving an Adult
Includes a priest whom an allegation of sexual misconduct involving an adult was determined to be credible and whose name was previously published (2017) on the list of credibly accused clergy. This category is divided into one subcategory: (A) Incardinated in the Diocese of Springfield. In 2019, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter Vos estis lux mundi that established a definition for a “vulnerable person” as, “Any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or to otherwise resist the offence.” Currently, the Diocese of Springfield is conducting a review of its policies and procedures concerning sexual abuse, assault and/or misconduct with a vulnerable person.