The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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SNAP Asks MA AG to Investigate Springfield Diocese
Last Friday, Springfield SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) formally asked Attorney General Thomas Reilly to open a criminal investigation of the Springfield Diocese and its handling of sexual abuse by diocesan priests.
In a letter to AG Reilly, Springfield SNAP coordinator Peter Pollard cited allegations about the destruction of documents; a significant number of priests accused of sexual abuse having served in administrative roles in the Diocese; the sudden retirement and disappearance of Bishop Thomas Dupre after he was confronted with sex abuse allegations against him; the establishment of a $100,000 trust fund from anonymous donors to support defrocked pedophile priests, including Richard Lavigne - a convicted sex offender and the chief suspect in the 1972 murder of altar boy Danny Croteau; and ongoing questions about the role of the Diocese in hampering the investigation of that murder.
There are too many unanswered questions, spanning decades that raise the specter of possible criminal conspiracy, Pollard said. The recent allegations and flight of Bishop Dupre only serves to heighten the conviction of many survivors that the deck has been stacked against them - that the church leaders to whom victims turned for help had a vested interest in covering up the crimes against them.
What would motivate someone to donate money to support pedophile priests? Where does the money come from, Pollard asked. Who had access to the records of past complaints against sexually abusive priests? Were any destroyed? Why has the Diocese continued to coddle Richard Lavigne, even after his sex abuse conviction 10 years ago?
Pollard noted that the Springfield Diocese covers four counties served by three independent district attorneys.
Only Attorney General Reilly is in a position to implement the kind of all-encompassing investigation necessary to find the real answers to these questions, Pollard said. We eagerly await AG Reillys response to our request.
SNAP's Letter to AG Reilly:
February 27, 2004
Attorney General Thomas Reilly
Dear Attorney General Reilly,
A recent series of stunning developments and disclosures involving the handling of clergy sexual abuse by the Springfield Diocese demands the involvement of your office in a full and thorough investigation of possible criminal actions by Diocesan personnel. These concerns include:
--· Allegations of destruction of incriminating documents regarding accusations of clergy sexual abuse.
--· A significant number of the Diocesan priests, who have been accused of sexual abuse, have held significant leadership roles in the power structure of the Diocese or have had access to Diocesan archives.
--· The recent statement by interim Diocesan leader Msgr. Richard Sniezyk suggesting that he and other priests were aware as early as the 1950s of the sexual exploitation of minors by other priests and no one thought much about it.
--· The sudden retirement of Bishop Thomas Dupre, the leader of the Springfield Diocese, amidst fresh sexual abuse allegations against him.
--· Decades-long coddling of convicted sex-offender Richard Lavigne by the Diocese, including the recent establishment of a $100,000 trust from anonymous donors for the care and support of laicized pedophile priests, including Lavigne.
--· Ongoing questions about the role of the diocese in hampering the investigation of the possible involvement of diocesan clergy, including Lavigne, in the 1972 murder of altar boy Danny Croteau.
--· The ongoing refusal of the Diocese to name accused abusers, who may continue to pose a threat to the community.
--· The Dioceses acknowledged movement of offending priests across the boundaries of the four western counties that make up the Diocese, Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden.
Because criminal jurisdiction of the Diocese falls under three distinct district attorneys offices, only you are in a position to engage in the kind of all-encompassing investigation that could identify wrongdoing, clear the reputations of those who have unjustifiably fallen under suspicion and bring clarity to an issue that has embroiled the lives of countless families in western Massachusetts.
Therefore, we respectfully request that you take immediate steps to call a grand jury to undertake an intensive investigation of the actions of the Springfield Diocese and its various personnel relating to sexual exploitation.
On behalf of the members of Springfield SNAP,
Peter Pollard, coordinator
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests