Springfield Diocese Investigating Woman’s Claim She Was Sexually Abused by Priest As a Teen

By Anne-Gerard Flynn
The Republican
June 28, 2019

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield is investigating an accusation of sexual misconduct against a deceased priest by a former Berkshire County resident that dates back to the early 1970s when the woman was a high school sophomore in that county.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield is investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct against a deceased priest by a former Berkshire County resident that dates back to the early 1970s when the woman was a high school sophomore.

The allegation against the Rev. James D. McKenna was reported Thursday by the Berkshire Eagle, which quotes the woman, who now lives in Ohio, as alleging McKenna would get her drunk on a weekly basis and press her to engage in sexual activity that stopped short of intercourse in a parish rectory.

It quotes a letter the woman is said to have sent Bishop Mitchell Rozanski in September detailing the alleged abuse saying that the priest “would get me drunk until I could no longer fight back his advances. He is the reason I have been an alcoholic for a good part of my life.”

The woman is said to have received a response from Rozanski in October, thanking her, as reported by the Eagle, for “having the courage to write to me and share this painful experience with me” and urging her to contact the intake person at the time in the diocesan office for reporting claims of clergy sex abuse.

The woman did, but there was a delay in follow-up due to what the diocese in the Eagle story attributed to a restructuring of the office that includes both a review board composed of volunteer members as well as a paid investigator and paid social worker and recently an individual who educates on protecting children from sexual abuse.

Diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont confirmed today that Jeffrey Trant, who became director June 10 of what is now called the diocese’s Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance, “has been in contact” with the woman “as has been Kevin Murphy our investigator.”

The case is among the first to be handled by Trant, a licensed certified social worker and certified psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner, as director.

Trant was with Rozanski June 20 when the bishop heard from an alleged male victim an accusation of sexual abuse against the late Bishop Christopher Weldon and said at the time “whenever a victim comes forward, I am there to listen and to hear and to understand their experience.”

Rozanski has filed an initial report of the allegation against Weldon with the Hampden District Attorney; the Eagle reported the woman claiming abuse by McKenna said she reported her claim to the Berkshire District Attorney.

McKenna, who died Oct. 7, 2000 at the age of 75, is said to have been ordained in 1950 at St. Michael’s Cathedral by Weldon. He served as Weldon’s ecclesiastical secretary for four years from 1961 and assisted with the celebration of Masses at St. Catherine of Siena when the bishop first established that parish and its school in 1961.

A native of Springfield and 1942 graduate of Cathedral High School, McKenna attended St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Conn., and the Seminary of Philosophy and the Grand Seminary, both in Montreal, Canada.

He served for a summer at the Knights of Columbus Camp Hawley after his ordination, then at St. Peter Parish in Great Barrington and was parochial vicar at Holy Name Parish until October 1961.

He served as a parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield from 1964 until 1967, and at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Greenfield until 1971, when he was appointed pastor of St. Vincent de Paul in Lenoxdale, where he served for 17 years.

In 1988 he took residence at St. Joseph Parish in Pittsfield and assisted as chaplain at Berkshire Medical Center. He ministered as a parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish in Holyoke for two years until 1992, when he was assigned to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Holyoke.

He retired in 1993.

The diocese has not disclosed if any prior abuse allegations were made against McKenna.








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