Task force to weigh in on handling of clergy abuse reports by Springfield diocese

The Berkshire Eagle [Pittsfield MA]

September 7, 2021

By Larry Parnass

SPRINGFIELD — After more than a year of work, a group has recommendations ready for the Springfield diocese on how it can improve its handling of allegations of clergy abuse.

The final report by the Independent Task Force on the Response to Sexual Abuse within the Diocese of Springfield is due to be released at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Members of the public can watch a press conference to be livestreamed at diospringfield.org.

The task force was initially led by retired Judge Daniel A. Ford of Pittsfield. He stepped down in early June citing a perceived conflict of interest over his role, due to his work with the law firm Egan Flanagan & Cohen, which has long represented the diocese, including on clergy abuse legal matters.

The group was then co-led by Irene Woods and Orlando Isaza. It was commissioned by former Bishop Mitchell Rozanski in May 2020, just before the release of another independent report, also led by a retired judge, which found a Chicopee man’s complaint of repeated rape by former Bishop Christopher Weldon to be “unequivocally credible.”

Woods is founding executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin. Isaza is a former program officer at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

Both Woods and Isaza will be on hand at the Bishop Marshal Center in Springfield for Wednesday’s release of the report, along with the Most Rev. William D. Byrne, the current bishop of the diocese, and other members of the task force.

This spring, Ford said in a commentary that a “great deal has been accomplished” by the task force.

“We continue to hear the voices of all stakeholders and consider them as we are about to enter the final phase of our work,” Ford wrote. “We seek to acknowledge the horrific pain of survivors of sexual abuse and fulfill Bishop Byrne’s commitment to do significantly better for all the people of the Springfield Diocese.”

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.