Priest's Backers Soliciting Donations

By Bill Zajac
The Republican
July 15, 2005

SPRINGFIELD - Friends of a Springfield diocesan priest removed from ministry over a sexual abuse complaint have created a fund to defray the cleric's legal and living expenses.

An undated letter seeking financial support for the Rev. Michael H. Devlin has been sent to friends, including lay people and religious, according to people who have received the letter.

Devlin was removed from ministry by the diocese last year after an allegation that he abused a child for four years starting 33 years ago was deemed credible by the diocese's Review Board, the panel that investigates accusations of clergy misconduct.

A lawsuit was filed earlier this year by his accuser, Daniel B. Daley, a 45-year-old Air Force veteran.

Barbara A. Joseph of Williamstown, one of nine friends who signed the letter seeking support for the "Michael H. Devlin Irrevocable Trust," said she helped start the fund to support a longtime friend.

"He says he is innocent, and we believe him," said Joseph, who signed the letter with her husband, Dr. Thomas J. Joseph.

Daley, who said he was abused by Devlin when he was brought by his parents to the priest at age 11 or 12 for counseling, said the fund's creation is upsetting.

"They are being bamboozled by the man," said Daley, who also objects to the diocese supporting priests removed from ministry because of sexual abuse complaints.

The diocese pays removed clerics a monthly stipend of $1,030.

The letter states that Devlin needs more money to live "a normal life."

"His pride, dignity, ability to care for people and his good name have been taken away from him," the letter states.

Other letter signees were: Michael and Gloria Rivas of Springfield; Judith Riordan of Indian Orchard; Richard and Betsy Bighinatti of Midlothian, Va.; and John and Ellie Coughlin of Vero Beach, Fla.

More than a year ago, diocesan officials had taken earmarked donations and established a fund to help priests removed from ministry, but later dissolved the fund after coming under criticism.

A fund similar to Devlin's was created for the Rev. Francis P. Lavelle three years ago. Lavelle, who was removed from ministry following a recommendation of the Review Board, has been accused by three men in lawsuits of abusing them when they were minors.


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