Child Sexual Abuse Claim Made against Former Springfield Catholic Bishop Christopher Weldon Deemed Credible
By Ariana Tourangeau and Mike Masciadrelli
June 25, 2020
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – An investigation into a sexual assault claim against late Springfield Bishop Christopher J. Weldon was released Wednesday afternoon and according to the report, the claim is credible.
Judge Peter A. Velis, now retired, and Archbishop-designate Mitchell T. Rozanski held a briefing at the Bishop Marshall Center to share what the investigation revealed.
The report, which was sent to 22News states that on July 25, 2019, Judge Velis was contacted by Jeffrey Trant, director of the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield to conduct an “independent and outside” investigation respecting allegations made by a certain individual of sexual abuse committed by the late Bishop Christopher Weldon.
That certain individual, a man, claimed Weldon abused him when he was a child back in the 1960s.
The purpose of the investigation was to assess and determine the credibility of the individual’s allegations, to analyze how the complaint was handled by the Diocesan personnel responsible for protecting children and vulnerable adults and to help identify opportunities for improvement in how the diocese handles these matters.
The investigation included several of the following interviews:
Members of the Review Board present at the hearing of the complaint on June 13, 2018
Diocesan employees who fielded the original complaint
Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski
The Diocesan investigator
Other Diocesan employees
Persons with relevant information concerning geographical locations
Members of the complainant’s support group
Former altar boys
Other individuals referenced in Velis’ final report
Velis said in the report, “in evaluating the actions of those involved in the Weldon assessment, I found that there was a reluctance to fervently pursue an evaluation of allegations against him due to his prominence and revered legacy in the religious community.”
He goes on to say that the way the Diocese responded to the complainant and the procedure was greatly flawed. He also said in his conclusion that he found the allegations of the complainant concerning Bishop Weldon to be unequivocally credible.
According to Velis’ report, the notes from the complainant were prepared in February of 2015 and contained descriptions of Weldon’s alleged abuse on the complainant, a child who was nine or 10 years of age,” with phrases such as, “cuddling,” “behind me sexually,” “pulling me closer in bed,” “naked in bed,” and “behind me sexually, different places.” The notes also reference phrases such as, “two or three other boys naked in the room” and “tried penetrating me repeatedly both Forand and Weldon.”
The report notes that the narratives given by the victim of his experiences with Weldon were characterized by him as coming from the mindset and perspective of a 9-year-old boy. This is how he felt and viewed his victimization at the time of the alleged assaults.
The report states that the victim’s allegations against Weldon, including rape, described that he was forced onto a bed and “flipped over” and that he fought the entire time. He also described the assault as “hurting like hell and they wouldn’t stop.”
Archbishop-Designate Rozanski apologized for what happened to the victim and says action is needed to protect children.
“We need to go beyond an apology, rather, once and for all we need to implement real and substantial changes, some which we have already undertaken,” Archbishop-Designate Rozanski said.
Rozanski added that the diocese will now remove honorable mentions of Weldon at all Catholic facilities and will ask Trinity Health to rename Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital in Springfield.
Weldon served as Bishop from 1950 to 1977 and died in 1982.