Diocese Inaction Faulted

By Bill Zajac
[Springfield MA] Republican
July 6, 2004

Claire A. Singley remembers being in the choir loft of St. Anne's Church in Turners Falls about five years ago when someone pointed out the presence of Singley's former pastor.

"When I saw him, I could have thrown up," Singley said recently.

About seven years earlier, Singley was told by her son Gary R. Singley that their former pastor, the Rev. Clarence W. Forand, had sexually abused him up to 1,000 times when he was between the ages of 9 and 17.

Forand said he was stunned when Gary Singley made his allegations.

"We were very good friends until I left St. Anne's. It must have been a misunderstanding," Forand said.

Forand described the relationship as that of "father and son or big brother and little brother."

"Gary was a good honest soul. I don't understand how he would have thought I hurt him. . . . I think he maybe missed me when I left," said Forand, now 86 and living in the Belchertown retirement community Pine Valley Plantation.

Claire Singley said the allegations made sense to her. She watched for years as Forand showered attention on her son, bringing him to Broadway for shows, Maine for lobsters and Boston for steamers.

In 1993, the Misconduct Commission found Gary Singley's allegations to be credible, according to the diocese. Because Forand retired shortly before the allegations were brought forward, the diocese took no action against him at the time, a diocesan statement read.

The Singleys question why the diocese didn't remove Forand from all parish work and publicly identify him as a priest with a credible allegation of sexual abuse against him.

At the time the Misconduct Commission considered the matter, the diocese was removing other priests from parish ministry when credible allegations were made. Some of them were given administrative or clerical jobs in non-parish settings. However, some were allowed to serve as supply priests, filling in as needed in parishes to celebrate Mass.

Forand was not restricted, and he remained active in retirement, filling in for priests at various parishes, including St. Mary Parish in Palmer and St. George Parish in Chicopee, according to diocesan records. He even served briefly as administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in North Adams in 1994.

Also, Forand is listed as a retired priest in good standing in the 2004 Diocesan Directory, while the names of other priests who can't present themselves any longer as priests were purged from the biennial directory.

When Gary Singley made his allegations to the Misconduct Commission, now known as the Review Board, he was asked what he wanted out of the process.

Singley told the board that at the least he wanted assurances that Forand would never set foot again in St. Anne's Parish, Singley said.

By the time Forand visited St. Anne's Church in 1999, Singley had moved to Heath and had stopped going to church.

However, Claire Singley said Forand's presence in church shocked her.

"I went home and took a shower. I felt so dirty even seeing him," Singley said.

She called diocesan officials the next day and was assured it would never happen again, she said.

According to the diocese, when U.S. bishops in Dallas created a set of norms to deal with clergy sexual abuse in 2002, Forand was notified he could no longer present himself as a priest. Forand continued celebrating Mass until October 2002, when he became ill, he said.

Because of the inaction of the diocese, Gary Singley decided to share his story with The Republican. The revelation forced the diocese to confirm those elements of his story related to the Misconduct Commission.

Three days after The Republican sought comment from the diocese for this story, The Catholic Observer in its June 25 edition for the first time identified Forand as a priest faced with a credible allegation of sexual abuse against him.

"It feels good," Singley said about the Observer article. "But why did it take 10 years? Others could have been or were hurt by him during that time."

Singley, 43, a father of two teen-agers and an engineer at a Greater Greenfield company, said he feels the diocese never acted justly on the matter.

"Father Forand went on with his life with no label attached to him. I live with this every day," said Singley.

He said the outward appearance of success in his life belies the reality of emotional turmoil with which he struggles every day.


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