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Alleged victims' lawyer to file suit against Dupre

By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff, 3/11/2004

The lawyer representing two men who say the former Roman Catholic bishop of Springfield sexually abused them when they were boys said he will file suit against the bishop and seek to question under oath more than a dozen clerics, including Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, about what they knew, and when they knew, of the allegations.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer with the Boston firm Greenberg Traurig, said the subpoena he intends to serve O'Malley today is "not meant to embarrass the archbishop in any way." The law firm represented hundreds of people who settled claims against the Boston Archdiocese last year in what was O'Malley's first major accomplishment after being brought in to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis that exploded in Boston.

But MacLeish said he believes O'Malley and a group of other clerics, including outgoing Bishop Daniel P. Reilly of Worcester and up to a dozen priests in the Springfield diocese, have information that is relevant to the lawsuit against the diocese and Thomas L. Dupre, who stepped down last month as bishop of Springfield.

"We want to establish what Bishop Dupre said to [O'Malley and other priests] and when he said it," said MacLeish, who represents the two men who say Dupre plied them with alcohol, showed them gay pornography, and initiated sex with them when one was 12 and the other was 14 or 15. The men say the abuse took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they were altar boys and Dupre was a parish priest in Western Massachusetts.

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for O'Malley, said yesterday that the archbishop has not been subpoenaed to testify in any case since his installation in July, and called MacLeish's attempt to depose O'Malley "grandstanding."

Coyne said O'Malley learned of the allegations against Dupre only the day before they were made public Feb. 11.

"There is no need to subpoena the archbishop. He is a man of his word," said Coyne.

But MacLeish said O'Malley has yet to fully explain the circumstances surrounding a Nov. 14 phone call to O'Malley's office, during which a priest who counseled the mother of one of the alleged victims said he tried to alert O'Malley to the allegations. The priest, the Rev. James J. Scahill, says O'Malley never called him back.

Coyne reiterated yesterday that archdiocese secretaries said they can't recall taking the message and archdiocese officials have found no evidence that the call was made.

But Scahill, who clashed repeatedly with Dupre, accusing the bishop of protecting abusive priests, has produced a telephone bill showing that a two-minute call was placed at 11:41 a.m. Nov. 14 from his office in East Longmeadow to the chancery in Brighton, and has five witnesses, including two nuns, who say they were present when Scahill made the call. Scahill said he called Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly moments after he left O'Malley a message.

Under church rules, Scahill was supposed to report allegations against a bishop to O'Malley, the metropolitan, or leading bishop, in the region.

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.

Mark E. Dupont, a spokesman for the Springfield diocese, said Dupre wrote the Vatican in November seeking permission to retire, citing health reasons. But Dupont said he did not know if that request was sent before or after Nov. 14.

Dupre is already the subject of a Hampden County grand jury investigation that is considering criminal charges against him for the alleged abuse and coverup of that abuse.

If indicted, Dupre, 70, would become the first American bishop to face criminal charges for sexual abuse.

Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett said the statute of limitations on the alleged abuse in Massachusetts has probably expired, but that it could be extended because Dupre allegedly took steps to keep the sexual abuse secret as recently as last year. The two alleged victims say Dupre told them he would not accept the position as bishop if they revealed their past relationship.

Dupre could also face abuse charges in Canada and New Hampshire, where the alleged victims say Dupre abused them while on camping trips, and where the statute of limitations would be frozen once the accused left the jurisdiction.

Bennett's investigators, who searched Dupre's office and residence separately last week, are especially interested in locating two letters that the mother of one of the alleged victims says she sent to the bishop in late 2002 and last year, confronting him with the allegations.

Investigators are also looking for an anonymous e-mail containing the allegations that Dupre reportedly received in late 2002.

MacLeish said the suit he plans to file today in Hampden Superior Court will name Dupre and the diocese, but that he wants to question O'Malley and others about what communications about Dupre were sent to the Vatican's embassy in Washington, D.C., or the Vatican.

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