New Abuse Claim against Bishops

By Meghan Foley
Berkshire Eagle
May 20, 2010

A former local man who alleges he was molested by former Rev. Richard R. Lavigne is suing two retired bishops of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield for negligence.

Peter J. Caffrey, 47, of Michigan announced the lawsuit Thursday from the steps of the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield with his attorney, John Stobierski of Greenfield.

In the lawsuit, Caffrey, who is a mechanical engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleges the Most Rev. Joseph F. Maguire and the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre were negligent in supervising Lavigne.

Lavigne, who was convicted of two counts of child molestation in 1992, served at North Adams' St. Francis of Assisi Church from 1976 to 1977 before being transferred to St. Joseph's Church in Shelburne Falls.

In a telephone interview Thursday afternoon, Stobierski said Caffrey was sexually abused by Lavigne at St. Francis, and then at Lavigne's lake house in Ashfield.

The abuse occurred from 1976 to 1977 when Caffrey, who grew up in North Adams, was 12 and 13 years old, he said.

Several people have come forward in past years alleging they were molested by Lavigne, including former City Councilor and County Commissioner Paul Babeu, his older brother, Francis, and the late Shawn Dobbert.

While Dobbert was among 45 alleged sexual abuse victims to agree to a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Diocese of Springfield in 2004, the outcome of the Babeus' lawsuits are unclear.

Lavigne was defrocked from the priesthood in 2004.

Stobierski said Caffrey didn't come forward until now because he suffered from repressed memory, and didn't remember the event until it came back to him in June 2009.

"It was very traumatic for him, and he started seeing a psychologist," he said. "In September 2009, he reported the abuse to the Diocese of Springfield."

Sometime in late 2009 or early 2010, the Diocese told Caffrey it found his allegations credible, and offered him support for counseling, he said.

"He found that support to be difficult at best. They offered to pay his co-payments of $10 per visit, but he had to jump through so many hoops to do it, he felt they were trying to control him again," he said.

Stobierski said Caffrey approached him several months ago about filing a civil complaint on the matter.

"He wants to continue bringing light upon this crisis hoping it will help other people come forward, and other victims come to grips with the effects of sexual abuse," he said.

He added, Caffrey is also seeking justice.

The Diocese of Springfield issued a statement Wednesday stating Caffrey was offered full assistance from its Victim Counseling Office, but "he stopped communicating with that office some months ago."

"In fairness to the parties named in the lawsuit it is important to remember all diocesan records, including those covering that same time period, have been extensively scrutinized and reviewed by both local law enforcement officials and attorneys representing insurance carriers. Further, Bishop Maguire gave sworn testimony to both. As a result of those reviews, Bishop Maguire's conduct in supervising and assigning personnel has never been criticized."

The statement further stated the "allegations of inadequate supervision will be defended vigorously."

The reason Caffrey's lawsuit is directed at Maguire and Dupre is because Lavigne is indigent, and the result of a lawsuit against him would be nothing, Stobierski said.

"I didn't file a suit against the Diocese of Springfield because it tries to bar victims claims by holding out the shield of immunity because it's a charity. If they want to withdraw that, I'd be happy to drop the lawsuit against the bishops and pursue the Diocese," he said.

Dupre was indicted in 2004 for molesting two young boys in the 1970s. The charges were later dropped after the Hampden district attorney's office determined the cases were too old to pursue.

In September 2009, Williamstown resident, Andrew "Drew" Nicastro, filed a lawsuit against Maguire, Dupre and Monsignor Richard S. Sneizyk alleging they were negligent in supervising the former Rev. Alfred Graves.

Nicastro said Graves sexually abused him between 1982 and 1984, while pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Williamstown. Nicastro was 11 to 13 years old at the time.

Stobierski, who is representing Nicastro, said that lawsuit is currently in the discovery phase.

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