Area Priest Defrocked in Move by Vatican

By Bill Zajac
The Republican
June 9, 2006

Springfield - A local priest who served in parishes, oversaw aspiring priests and was a diocesan record keeper has been defrocked by the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield announced yesterday.

Richard F. Meehan, 63, has been stripped of his clerical status by the Vatican in a process called laicization, the diocese said.

Meehan becomes the second priest in the diocese to be defrocked by the Vatican as a result of credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Richard R. Lavigne, who was accused by more than 20 men of abusing them as minors, was defrocked in 2003.

Seven other priests who have been removed from public ministry because of credible allegations face the same possible action. The diocesan Review Board, formerly known as the Misconduct Commission, makes decisions about credibility when allegations of abuse are brought forward.

Martin P. Bono, a 51-year-old Chicopee man who accused Meehan of sexually abusing him when Bono was in his early teens, expressed gratitude for the church's action.

"I feel a sense of closure, but it is sad that it took so long," Bono said.

Bono said he has struggled with feelings of guilt and shame for most of his life because of the alleged abuse.

"Because no one came forward for years, I felt as though I did something wrong. The Vatican has now affirmed that I did nothing wrong," Bono said.

Bono said he was abused when he was a student at Our Lady of Hope School in Springfield when Meehan was a priest assigned to the parish.

At least one other person made allegations of abuse against Meehan to the diocese.


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