D.A. Conte, Worcester Diocese Mum on Numbers
Sunday, April 21, 2002
By Richard Nangle - Telegram & Gazette Staff
Just the number -- 90 priests accused of sexual abuse -- has dogged
Cardinal Bernard F. Law as the pressure mounts for him to resign
from the Boston Archdiocese.
In the neighboring Worcester Diocese, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly is
facing no such pressure. He has agreed to turn over names of accused
priests to Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte. But so far,
there has been no disclosure of the number.
Despite numerous allegations of sexual abuse committed by its priests,
the climate surrounding the Worcester Diocese bears little resemblance
to that of the Boston Archdiocese.
Like Cardinal Law, Worcester Bishop Reilly has signed off on confidential
settlement agreements during his time here. Furthermore, he is named
in a string of sexual abuse lawsuits that date back to his time
as bishop of Norwich, Conn., and holder of several high-ranking
titles in the Providence Diocese.
Last week, a Connecticut man whose brother committed suicide years
after allegedly being sexually abused by a priest in the Norwich
diocese called for Bishop Reilly's resignation. But it is there
that the similarity between Bishop Reilly's situation and that of
Cardinal Law ends.
The number of priests in the Boston Archdiocese accused of sexual
abuse has been made public by individual district attorneys and
totals about 90.
That no such number has been available from Bishop Reilly or Mr.
Conte is a sore point for some who have been watching the priest
abuse scandal closely.
If they're not going to say how many, then what's the point?
said Phil Saviano, New England regional director for the Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests.
This is a matter of great public importance, particularly
to the parishioners of the Worcester Diocese. I would think they
would be unwilling to accept this, he said. Is it because
the number is so high that it would be an embarrassment?
Elsewhere in Massachusetts, the Fall River Diocese has turned over
the names of 32 priests to prosecutors in Bristol County and on
the Cape and Islands, the Boston Herald reported. The Springfield
Diocese has turned over names to prosecutors in four Western Massachusetts
counties. As is the case in Worcester, the number of priests involved
has not been released.
The Providence Diocese last month disclosed that all known cases
of sexual misconduct against minors after 1979 had been reported
previously to authorities.
To me it doesn't matter if there's one or 100. If there is
one, that is bad enough, said Ann Mangold, who has a child
enrolled at St. Leo Elementary School in Leominster. They
should let the people know how many there are.
Would numbers be helpful? Perhaps, but it's not part of what
we're insisting on, said Ginny Ryan, a member of a group of
parishioners at Christ the King Church in Worcester who are withholding
contributions to the Diocese of Worcester until Bishop Reilly considers
several of their recommendations having to do with priest sexual
Unlike the situation in Boston, where Cardinal Law is under fire
for reassigning two priests who were hit with multiple abuse complaints,
much of the activity in Worcester predated Bishop Reilly.
Still, Bishop Reilly has reassigned at least one priest, who was
accused of sexual abuse in a lawsuit that was settled for $300,000.
Last month, Bishop Reilly removed that priest, Rev. Peter Inzerillo,
from his duties at St. Leo's Church and the St. Leo Elementary School
in Leominster. While allegations of improper reassignments in other
dioceses, including Boston, go back several years, Bishop Reilly
reassigned Rev. Inzerillo in late 2000, several years after the
lawsuit in question was settled.
The Worcester Diocese is about one-sixth the size of the Boston
Archdiocese, but similar in size to many across the country.
Mr. Saviano says Worcester has had more than its share of alleged
It seems pretty high to me, he said. It has always
The Worcester situation is complicated by the fact that it was
the host diocese for the former House of Affirmation, where some
priests under treatment for psychological problems would later be
accused of sexual abuse upon reassignment.
The Whitinsville-based facility closed several years before Bishop
Reilly came to Worcester. But one of the confidential settlement
agreements signed by Bishop Reilly names priests who were treated
there in what appears to have been a child sex ring.
Where the Worcester Diocese differs most from Boston is in the
fact that it does not have new allegations of an offender with a
long track record, such as the Rev. John J. Geoghan and the Rev.
Paul R. Shanley in the Boston Archdiocese. The accusations against
those two priests have helped create much of the groundswell against
Few American church leaders are facing the same pressure as Cardinal
Cardinal Edward Egan in New York City is under fire for his actions
as head of the Bridgeport, Conn., Diocese. A few other bishops,
including John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., are feeling the
pressure of parishioners calling for their resignations. But the
vast majority of bishops and cardinals, even those who have reassigned
priests accused of sexual abuse, have not been pressured to resign
by their flocks.
But as long as Mr. Conte refrains from releasing the names of accused
priests turned over by the diocese, questions about Bishop Reilly's
culpability will not go away, according to Mr. Saviano.
Things are still being uncovered, things are still being
investigated. I think it's too early to make the final analysis
that things in Worcester are not nearly as bad as they are in Boston,
Mr. Saviano said.