Ruined files spark allegation
Priest says bishop called Springfield, MA diocese
By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff, 9/17/2003
EAST LONGMEADOW -- Springfield, Massachusetts Bishop Thomas
L. Dupre last year said the diocese he heads was ''fortunate''
because one of his predecessors had destroyed records about
priests implicated in the sexual abuse of minors, according
to a priest who accuses Dupre of not doing enough to confront
In an interview yesterday here at St. Michael's Church, where
he is pastor, the Rev. James J. Scahill said Dupre mentioned
the destroyed records in front of him and several other priests
at a meeting of the diocese's presbyteral council about two
months after the sexual abuse scandal exploded in Boston in
According to Scahill, Dupre said, ''Fortunately for the church
of Springfield,'' the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon had
destroyed ''many personal and personnel files.''
Weldon died in 1982.
Scahill said that when he confronted Dupre about the remarks
in the late autumn of 2002, Dupre denied making them.
Mark Dupont, a spokesman for Dupre, last night said Dupre
''absolutely denies saying anything about this as being good
for the diocese'' and described Scahill's account as ''an
oversimplification of a complicated conversation.''
Dupont said some of Weldon's personal papers were destroyed
after he died, but that anything deemed a diocesan record
''Father Scahill has exaggerated many facts in Springfield.
He is prone to wild speculation,'' said Dupont.
Scahill said he was willing to make his allegation under
oath and said he hoped Dupre would be questioned about it
under oath, too.
Last night, a Greenfield attorney, John J. Stobierski, who
represents at least 20 people with claims against the diocese,
said he would depose both Scahill and Dupre.
''If they have destroyed records, there are serious civil
remedies, including a finding of liability,'' said Stobierski.
Scahill said he decided to go public with his allegation
because Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney is scheduled
to hold a hearing on Sept. 24 on a motion by the diocese to
dismiss five civil cases.
Diocesan lawyers said the cases refer to acts before 1971,
when charities were exempt from such suits.
''Judge Sweeney needs to be aware of this,'' said Scahill.
Scahill attracted attention last year when he began withholding
the 6 percent of his parish's weekly collection that goes
to the diocese, in protest over the refusal of Dupre to defrock
a priest, Rev. Richard Lavigne, who was convicted of sexually
abusing children in 1992.
The Springfield diocese faces about two dozen sexual abuse
But, unlike Boston, where lawyers uncovered records that
showed that church leaders protected abusive priests and covered
up their crimes, there has been no similar paper trail in
This story ran on page A27 of the Boston Globe on 9/17/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.