Rev. James Scahill, an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, announces retirement
By Jeanette Deforge
April 29, 2014
|The Rev. James J. Scahill before start of a Mass at St. Michael's Church.|
EAST LONGMEADOW – Rev. James J. Scahill, a controversial but beloved priest known for being an outspoken critic of the way the Catholic church has handled the sex abuse scandal, will retire as pastor of St. Michael’s Parish in June.
Scahill, who is around 67, met with Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, to discuss his plans to retire recently, said Mark E. Dupont, spokesman for the diocese.
“It is not an unusual time. It is the end of the fiscal year and the program and there is plenty of notice to give the bishop a chance to find a new pastor for July,” Dupont said.
Scahill, who could not be reached for comment, is known internationally for his years of support of victims of priest sex abuse and his outspoken criticism of the way the Catholic Church has handled the crisis. He has appeared on a variety of international networks including the British Broadcasting Corp. and Cable News Network in 2010 after urging then-Pope Benedict XVI to deal more forcefully with sex abuse causes or resign.
Then two years ago Scahill got into a more personal problem when he was arrested for drunken driving after a minor car accident in East Longmeadow. The case was continued without a finding.
In June 2004 Scahill received the Priest of Integrity Award from a national organization that supports victims of clergy sex abuse.
Many such victims and their families had sought his counsel, including one of the two men who accused the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, former bishop of the Springfield diocese, of abusing him as a minor.
Dupre resigned in February 2004 when confronted by The Republican with the allegation. He later was indicted, but the statute of limitations had passed for prosecution.
Priests have many choices upon retirement. Many continue part-time ministry, assisting parish priests with masses and other duties or filling in for those on vacation. Some priests opt to stay in the area and live in church property while others have their own homes where they live after retiring, Dupont said.
He added he does not know what Scahill’s future plans are yet.
Scahill announced his plans to retire to his parish, which is one of the largest in the Springfield Diocese and the only one in East Longmeadow, last weekend, Dupont said.
"It is my fond hope that you will please remember me as a priest who strove to celebrate each mass with prayerful reverence. As a Christian person, I truly labored to prepare and deliver sermons that might be applicable and helpful in our Christian journey. Please remember my sincere efforts at each and every Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage ceremony and Funeral service; and, my counseling efforts to comfort, to challenge and to encourage," he wrote in his letter
“We recognize it is a loss for his parish community. He is much beloved for his parish community and he has been there for 12 years,” Dupont said.
While Dupont declined to talk about Scahill’s advocacy over the sex abuse scandal, he said he understands the support he has shown for sex abuse victims.
“I think for some abuse victims, his loss will certainly be dearly felt and we recognize that,” he said.
But he also said St. Michael’s is a difficult parish to oversee since it is so large, growing and the parish priest is alone. He does receive assistance from Sister Betty Broughan and Sister Mary McGeer, who serve as pastoral associates.
The bishop will now send a letter to all priests telling them of the impending vacancy and inviting anyone to apply for the position. A clergy commission, which deals with all vacancies, will select a new pastor, Dupont said.