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Spotlight Report

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Abuse lawyer asks AG to act

Review sought in Springfield diocese

By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff, 2/13/2004

Victims of sexual abuse by priests and their advocates called on Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly yesterday to launch an investigation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield similar to the sweeping probe Reilly carried out in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The victims asked for a state investigation one day after Bishop Thomas L. Dupre resigned as bishop of Springfield after being confronted with allegations that he had sexually abused two boys more than two decades ago. Victims and their advocates assert that Dupre coddled abusive priests, dragged his feet on settling lawsuits, and put a priest who had been removed from ministry in charge of diocesan archives, part of a coverup that they say rivals anything Cardinal Bernard F. Law did in Boston.

"Victims in Western Massachusetts deserve the same amount of attention from the attorney general's office as victims in Eastern Massachusetts," said John J. Stobierski, the lawyer who represents 40 people in 21 cases against the Springfield diocese. Yesterday he sent a formal request to Reilly calling for a state investigation.

Ann Donlan, a spokeswoman for Reilly, said he would review the request. She confirmed that he met in November with the Rev. James J. Scahill at St. Michael's Parish in East Longmeadow, to discuss allegations against Dupre.

The Hampden district attorney's office said yesterday that it is investigating the allegations.

Scahill said he called Reilly on Nov. 14, moments after he had called Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, in both instances to report that he had learned of allegations that Dupre had sexually abused minors. Under church rules, Scahill was supposed to report allegations against a bishop to O'Malley, the metropolitan, or leading bishop in the region.

A spokesman for O'Malley, the Rev. Christopher Coyne, said yesterday that the archdiocese had no records indicating Scahill called. Scahill produced a telephone bill that appeared to back his claim that he had called O'Malley's office at 11:41 a.m. on Nov. 14 and had spoken for two minutes.

Coyne said Scahill should have done more than make a single phone call, given the seriousness of the information.

But Scahill contrasted the archdiocese's response to Reilly's. He said Reilly called him back within 10 minutes and met him at his church within two hours. Scahill, who counseled the mother of one of the two alleged victims, said he asked Reilly how to report the allegations to authorities.

Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk, the temporary administrator of the Springfield Diocese, said yesterday it had sent to the Hampden district attorney's office information about the allegations presented to the diocese by The Republican newspaper in Springfield, which interviewed the mother of one of the alleged victims.

The diocese said Wednesday that Dupre had resigned for health reasons.

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