Allegation of Clergy Sexual Abuse Cover-up Filed against Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski
By Anne-Gerard Flynn
The Republican / Masslive.com
July 14, 2020
|6/11/2020 - Olan Horne, a long-time advocate for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse, has filed an allegation that Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski covered up such abuse with the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service. (Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican)|
SPRINGFIELD — Olan Horne, a long-time advocate for clergy sexual abuse victims, has filed an allegation that Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski engaged in a cover-up with the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service.
Horne said his complaint is not solely based on a recent investigation by retired Judge John Velis that determined how the Springfield Diocese handled allegations of abuse against the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon was “greatly flawed.”
Horne said his evidence includes other cases in which he said alleged clergy sexual abuse was only addressed by the diocese and made public after prolonged advocacy by victims and their supporters.
“That report is only one slice of the pie,” said Horne of the Velis report. “We see behaviors by people working with the bishop again and again.”
Horne termed such behaviors as “deny, delay, and cover up.”
Rozanski named Velis to investigate claims against Weldon last June after meeting with the alleged survivor whose account to the diocesan review board was in dispute.
The meeting came at the survivor’s request, and Horne, who was involved in some of that process, has maintained that a number of changes Rozanski has made around how the diocese handles allegations of clergy abuse in the last 12 months are a result of “persistence” from survivors.
Horne cited the diocese’s disclosure, five years after the fact and a settlement with an alleged victim, that the suicide of diocesan priest Paul Archambault in 2011 was likely prompted by being confronted about the abuse of a teenage boy and noted only then was Archambault’s name added to the diocesan list of credibly accused priests.
A Berkshire Country resident, who was part of a multi-million dollar clergy sexual abuse settlement in the Boston archdiocese in 2003, initiated the request for an investigation “with support from other concerned Catholics here in the diocese,” Horne said. The evidence submitted would include the names of those who have acted as “agents on behalf of the bishops to date.”
“It should not have taken this herculean effort to get justice for the Weldon survivor,” said Horne of the Velis report that found the allegations against Springfield’s fourth bishop to be “unequivocally credible.”
“Look at the names and the games — they are the same and finally we have had a few investigations to get to the bottom of the claims we all have been making here for years without any results.”
Horne called the way the diocese has been handling allegations of abuse “an archaic system” and one that “needed to be updated when Thomas Dupre (a late bishop of Springfield who fled being indicted on child rape charges in 2004) left.”
“It never happened,” Horne said, adding “now the old days are over because of the work we (survivors) did.”
Horne said he had received confirmation his allegation had been entered into the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service system. If an investigation is initiated, the process is reportedly supposed to be completed within 90 days.
Rozanski, who has served as bishop here since 2014, is to be installed as Archbishop of St. Louis on Aug. 25.
Mark Dupont, Springfield diocesan spokesperson, said he was “aware of inquiries made to the diocese regarding how to file a report via the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service, or CBAR.”
“We would have no way to verify if a report has been filed as this is intentionally handled outside the diocese by the Metropolitan,” said Dupont, a reference to Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston who as metropolitan oversees the four dioceses of Massachusetts, as well as the dioceses of Burlington, Vermont; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Portland, Maine.
Dupont added that Velis and his investigator, retired Springfield homicide detective Dennis O’Connor, had met last week with the new diocesan task force to discuss Velis’ recommendations on how the diocesan can improve handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse and outreach to survivors.
The diocese recently signed an agreement to report all allegations to the appropriate district attorney’s office and to only began its own investigation into any allegations when it is cleared to do so by law enforcement.
James Leydon, communications director for Hampden District Attorney’s Office, said that office “continues to review all allegations made by victims of abuse and those forwarded” by the Springfield Diocese.
“Criminal investigations are commenced, where appropriate,” Leydon said.
“District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni continues to urge anyone who is a victim to contact the Clergy Abuse Hotline of the Hampden District Attorney’s Office at (413) 800-2958, where one can confidentially speak with a trained detective.”
He added, “With respect to any allegations against former Bishop Christopher Weldon, the Hampden District Attorney’s Office is in receipt of reports from the diocese and its review and investigation remains open.”