Three priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield have been temporarily removed from public office over allegations of sexual abuse, according to Jeffrey J. Trant, director of the Diocesan Office for Safe Environment and Victim Support .
The priests have not been identified.
Trant, who was appointed at his post last June, said 14 new alleged victims had filed complaints of clerical sexual abuse since July 2019.
“Ten allegations of sexual abuse against a minor / child and four allegations of sexual abuse against a vulnerable adult,” he said.
The diocese defines vulnerable adults as “those who are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of physical or mental disabilities”.
Four reports, Trant said, “concerned allegations against independent religious orders and two reports concerned allegations of sexual abuse by a cleric from another diocese.”
“Four allegations were made against living priests in the diocese, one allegation of which did not name the identity of the alleged assailants, but it was reported that there were two priests, one of whom was from the Diocese of Springfield who had previously been removed from the ministry due to a credible allegation of sexual abuse, and the other from another diocese, ”Trant said.
He added: “Two allegations were made against living priests of independent religious orders, and one allegation was against a living priest from another diocese.”
He said new allegations had been made against both “a new living person” as well as a deceased person.
The diocese recently clarified and made a deal with law enforcement in which the allegations he receives are first referred for investigation to the appropriate district attorney’s office, but Trant said the diocese is continuing as part of its admissions process to offer the the moment when the report is made the advice to the alleged victim “while the case is being examined by the police and, later, the Diocesan Revision Commission. “
He said there had been four new people “in the diocese counseling program in the past 12 months” and that “27 victim-survivors participated” in the program during that time.
He was asked if the new investigative team hired in february to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy for the diocese, cases had been assigned, Trant said: “As of June 1, 2020, six allegations of sexual abuse of the clergy have been reported to the forces of order and have been approved for diocesan investigators. “
“There is a case of alleged clergy sexual abuse that will be heard by the review board at the June meeting,” Trant said, adding that there were ongoing negotiations involving monetary settlements with the victims.
In addition to the appointment of Trant, who holds a master’s degree in social work from Boston College, and the conclusion of a “Memo of Understanding” with the attorneys of the four western counties, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski last June appointed Retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon dating back to the early 1960s.
Last June, after meeting a man who said he was sexually assaulted by Weldon decades ago, Rozanski deposit an initial report of this charge with the Hampden Country District Attorney’s Office.
Trant said the Velis investigation “will also help identify opportunities for improvement in the way the diocese deals” with allegations of clerical sexual abuse.
When the diocese receives a report against a person alive in the ministry, the person is temporarily removed from the ministry and the allegation is reported to the appropriate district attorney, Trant said..
Allegations made to the Diocese of Springfield about a member of the clergy of an independent religious order are reported by its office directly to the appropriate district attorney, and the diocese also informs the independent religious order, Trant said.
Allegations made to the diocese about a member of the clergy from another diocese are reported to that diocese, said Trant, his office working with the other diocese to verify that the allegation has been reported to the forces of the order.
Last week, Rozanski announced the members of a independent working group he created to advise the diocese on child protection and office sexual abuse and on adopting all of the Velis report recommendations that the diocese said should be finalized and released soon.
In February 2019, the diocese published a report that showed that on that date, the Diocese of Springfield had contributed nearly $ 15 million to settle 147 clergy sexual abuse complaints since 1992.
A report from Pennsylvania released in August 2018 found that 300 priests from six dioceses had sexually assaulted 1,000 children over seven decades and that the cases were covered up by the church hierarchy.
The Diocese of Springfield has had several high profile cases.
The first American bishop allegedly charged with child sexual abuse was the Bishop of Springfield, Thomas Dupre.
Indicted for raping two boys in the 1970s, Dupré, who abruptly resigned in 2004 shortly before his indictment, was never prosecuted due to statute of limitations and died Bishop Emeritus in 2016 at the age of 83 years.
The Springfield Diocese settled with two men who named Dupré as their attacker.
In 2003, the Vatican dismissed Richard Lavigne, a diocesan priest who pleaded guilty in 1992 to two counts of assaulting a minor and was sentenced to 10 years probation. Lavigne was also the only publicly identified suspect in the 1972 murder of Springfield altar boy Daniel Croteau. This murder remains unresolved.
In 2018, 15 reported cases of clergy sexual abuse were reported to the diocese, the highest number since 52 complaints were filed in 2004.
The diocese publishes on its website a list of diocesan priests and deacons who have been the subject of one or more allegations of child sexual abuse during their lifetime and who have been found credible by the diocesan review board.