Oversight panel to carry out church sex abuse reforms in Springfield Diocese

  • Bishop William D. Byrne GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/12/2022 6:15:26 PM
Modified: 1/12/2022 6:14:33 PM

SPRINGFIELD — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has named a nine-member committee tasked with overseeing reforms to how the church addresses sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, Springfield Bishop William Byrne announced that the new Implementation and Oversight Committee will lead the implementation of recommendations put forward by an independent task force that assessed the diocese’s response to sexual abuse.

Last September, the task force recommended changes to the process of responding to allegations of sexual abuse. Among its findings were that law enforcement should first investigate such accusations, not solely the diocese. The task force also nominated the slate of candidates who will now become members of the oversight committee.

In a statement, Byrne said that he was grateful to the diverse group who have accepted the invitation to serve on the committee. He said that work will ensure “that the diocese will improve its response to allegations of abuse within our church community and ensure that we make every effort not to repeat our past failures.”

“We owe this to victims and survivors of abuse, along with all in the community we serve,” Byrne said.

Four of the new committee members are from Franklin and Hampshire counties:

■Henry East-Trou, a Greenfield clinician and retired executive director of Gándara Mental Health Center.

■Jackie Humphreys, a Montague therapist with more than 30 years working in the field of trauma.

■Andrew Rome of Belchertown, who is currently the deputy commissioner for field operations for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.

■Irene Woods of Greenfield, the founding executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin.

The five other members are Peter Adams, a North Adams native who is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and advocate for change in the church; Kristina Drzal Houghton of Longmeadow; Ronald Johnson of Springfield; James Ross III of Wilbraham; and Jose Tosado of Springfield.

Based on the recommendations of the task force, the Diocesan Review Board, which hears cases of sexual abuse within the church community and makes a recommendation to the bishop about the credibility of a claim, is being restructured.

In May 2021, the diocese — comprising 79 parishes and seven missions across Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties — released an expanded list of church officials and employees who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. The list contained 61 names, an increase from the 21 previously included on the list.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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