Diocese of Springfield MA to Get New Bishop, SNAP Calls for Action

A Catholic diocese in Massachusetts is getting a new bishop. We hope that its new prelate will make the protection of children and the vulnerable his highest priority and we suggest immediate steps he can take when he is formally installed as bishop.

Bishop-elect William D. Byrne has been appointed by Pope Francis as the next Bishop of Springfield, MA. Given the fact that Bishop-elect Byrne’s predecessor, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, has been called out for actively working to cover up cases of clergy abuse and is apparently under review for his actions, we believe that Bishop-elect Byrne must immediately make changes with how the Diocese of Springfield operates in order to ensure children are protected. Immediately upon assuming his new position he should take the steps below.

First, Bishop-elect Byrne should read every file of every person accused of abuse in his diocese and ensure that each case is being or was handled properly. He should also turn over every single one of those files to local police and prosecutors to let properly trained experts in law enforcement determine if there are any crimes that can be charged. This is especially critical as there are likely secrets that were actively hidden by Archbishop Rozanski, and Bishop-elect Byrne can and should turn those records over to his Metropolitan and to law enforcement.

Second, Bishop-elect Byrne should follow in the footsteps of Bishop Steven Biegler from Cheyenne, WY, and turn all records related to Archbishop Rozanksi over to secular law enforcement officials. Bishop Biegler took this step because his predecessor, Bishop Joseph Hart, had repeatedly been accused of abuse. Given the allegations that are facing Archbishop Rozanksi, we believe that Bishop-elect Byrne can show that he takes the issue of clergy abuse seriously by working with law enforcement, not impeding them.

Finally, Bishop-elect Byrne should review the “credibly accused” list released to the public by his new diocese and make sure that it is complete. We find the current list released by the Diocese of Springfield woefully inadequate and needing a significant amount of detail added. It should include the name of every abusive bishop, priest, brother, nun, seminarian, and church employee or volunteer, in addition to information about when each allegations was made and what actions were taken by diocesan officials in response. Additionally, Bishop-elect Byrne should update the list to include headshots and the current whereabouts of each person named.

For years, Catholic officials have promised transparency and openness to the public about sex crimes. While we believe Archbishop Rozanski failed in that duty, Bishop-elect Byrne can live up to that promise now.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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