Some Clergy Abuse Claimants Demand More from Diocese

By Matt Delucia

December 9, 2008

Following a $4.5 Million settlement by the Diocese of Springfield, many of the 59 claimants say it is insufficient, and that the Diocese has not done enough to educate the public it serves.

Standing outside the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocesan headquarters Monday afternoon, Springfield resident Don Henneberger says the $75,000 he received in this latest priest sex abuse settlement should only be the beginning, and not the end of assistance to victims.

Henneberger is one of 59 plaintiffs who received part of a $4.5 Million settlement last week. Henneberger received his claim after he says he was abused by Father Richard O'Hearn at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Pittsfield. Henneberger and other members of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) want the Diocese to work proactively to promote healing and prevent future incidents of sexual abuse.

"The payments are an important first step in holding the Church and the priests accountable for the betrayal and the abusive actions committed against young children," said Peter Pollard, SNAP Coordinator for Western Massachusetts.

SNAP's 18 non-monetary demands include, in part: publicly releasing the names of clergy responsible for sexual abuse, posting known abusers on the diocesan web site for at least nine years, and for the bishop to visit parishes where known abusers have served, included deceased perpetrators. The group delivered the list of requests to Bishop Timothy McDonnell's office Monday. The Diocese said it has been, and will continue to do everything it legally can.

"Some of these requests seem to go beyond the scope that the bishop, or any bishop has," said Mark DuPont, spokesperson for the Diocese of Springfield.

And, as for the alleged victims' complaints that the $4.5 Million settlement is not enough, DuPont says, "Except for closing schools or very valuable other ministries - which I don't think anyone thinks is appropriate... We've done the best we can."

The Diocese said it legally cannot release information regarding the ongoing treatment of many of its accused priests, including retired Bishop Thomas Dupre, and therefore cannot inform the public as to his whereabouts. Dupre was indicted on two counts of rape in 2004 but was not prosecuted after the statute of limitations expired. DuPont said it is up to The Vatican to decide whether or not accused clergy should be defrocked.


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