Springfield Diocese expands list of those ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse

  • Bishop William Byrne of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield speaks Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at a press conference announcing the release of an expanded list of church officials and employees who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. SCREENSHOT/DIOCESE OF SPRINGFIELD

Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2021 11:44:58 AM

SPRINGFIELD — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has released an expanded list of church officials and employees who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

The diocese — comprising 79 parishes and seven missions across Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties — released its updated list of credible allegations on Wednesday. At a press conference, Bishop William Byrne noted that the list now contains 61 names, an increase from the 21 previously included on the list. Byrne said the list is part of his commitment to transparency and healing.

“‘I’m well aware that the past efforts in the Diocese of Springfield have not achieved that outcome,” Byrne said. “Make no mistake about it, we still have far to come.”

The expanded list now includes categories of church employees not previously included among those credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor: priests who were deceased when an allegation was made, those who were members of a religious order and those who were lay employees of the diocese. The list can be found on the Diocese of Springfield’s website at diospringfield.org.

Among those names is an emeritus faculty member at Smith College, Robert Ellis Hosmer Jr., who was the subject of more than one credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor between 1973 and 1978 when he was a faculty member at Holyoke Catholic High School, according to the list.

Methodology

Jeffrey Trant, the director of the diocese’s Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance, said two independent raters reviewed each case to determine whether it should be included in the new list. Forensic psychologist and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth researcher Raina Lamande also conducted an independent review of the diocese’s process and findings in February, he said.

“The diocese has taken great care in the preparation of this list,” Trant said. “However, we recognize this information may still be imperfect.”

Trant said that the diocese is committed to providing support to any survivor of abuse if they choose to come forward with an allegation. He said that process begins by reporting the allegation to a district attorney’s office. After law enforcement conducts an investigation, the diocese will begin its own review, he said, noting that the updated list will be further expanded as new allegations are substantiated.

“The list will truly be a living document,” Trant said.

A memorandum of understanding signed by area district attorneys and the church stipulates that the diocese should suspend any fact-finding while law enforcement officials conduct their investigation, Trant said. For that reason, Trant said he could not comment on how many cases are currently under review by the diocese.

Lay employees

Hosmer, one of three lay employees accused of sexually abusing a minor, taught at Holyoke Catholic High School from 1968 to 1979. Smith College, describing Hosmer as an emeritus faculty member, said in a statement on its website that the college was notified Tuesday about the pending release of the allegation.

“There are no allegations of abuse during this employee’s tenure at the college,” the statement reads. “Nevertheless, we take any allegation of sexual misconduct seriously. The college is looking into this matter and will share any further updates with the community.”

Hosmer did not respond to phone and email messages left for him Wednesday afternoon. Other efforts to reach Hosmer were unsuccessful.

The two other lay employees named are Michael Graziano and the late Michael F. Linnehan. Graziano was president of the diocese communication office until 2004 and is included on the list for an allegation dating back to 1985. Graziano made headlines in 2004 when he resigned following the accusation against him.

Few accused clergy living

Of the 37 clergy added to the list on Wednesday for allegations of abuse against a minor, only five appear to still be alive.

Those include Jeffrey L’Arche, a member of the Missionaries of La Salette religious order who served in Holyoke’s Immaculate Conception Parish from 1976 to 1981 — the same time period during which he is alleged to have sexually abused a minor. The Diocese of Springfield notes in its list that Missionaries of LaSalette commissioned an independent investigation in 2004 that found that the “allegation against Fr. Jeffrey L’Arche appears to be highly questionable.”

L’Arche — who currently serves at St. Mary’s Church in the Diocese of Albany, New York — did not respond to voicemail and email messages left Wednesday afternoon. The diocese’s list says that in 1997 L’Arche had his “faculties removed from the Diocese of Springfield.”

Donald Simonds, a member of the Missionaries of La Salette religious order who worked at Westfield’s Holy Trinity between 1980 and 1996, has been the subject of multiple allegations that he sexually abused a minor between 1979 and 1983, according to the list. He was removed from ministry in 2002, the list said.

Richard Kirouac, who served in Williamstown’s Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish from 2001 to 2003, had multiple allegations made against him for conduct between 1998 and 2000. George Paulin was removed from the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, in 2002 over multiple child sexual abuse allegations from 1968 and 1969.

Efforts to reach Simonds, Kirouac and Paulin were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Previously reported

Though some names are new to the list, abuse allegations against those diocese employees have previously surfaced in news reporting.

For example, the list includes one allegation of sexual misconduct involving an adult. That accusation was made against Eugene Honan, who most recently was assigned to St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Northampton from 1993 to 2005 and Immaculate Conception Parish in Easthampton from 2005 to 2010. The alleged conduct occurred between 1996 and 1997, according to the list.

In 2018, South Hadley native Richard Koske told the Gazette that Honan sexually assaulted him in the mid-1990s. The diocese deemed the allegation credible nearly two decades later, and has in various documents referred to the incident as “inappropriate touching,” “sexual assault” and “sexual misconduct.” Koske said he received a $20,000 settlement from the church in 2013.

Efforts to reach Honan, whom the church said it removed from public ministry in 2010, were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

Two former bishops of the Springfield Diocese are included on the list of those credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor: Thomas Ludger Dupre, who served as bishop from 1995 to 2004 and died in 2016, and Christopher Weldon, the bishop from 1950 to 1977 who died in 1982. More than one credible allegation was made against Dupre, dating back to the ’70s and early ’80s. Weldon had one credible allegation filed against him from 1960 to 1962.

Dupre’s name was previously on the list of those credibly accused. Weldon’s name is new to the list, though the diocese released a lengthy report last summer that found sexual abuse allegations against Weldon to be “unequivocally credible.”

Another name included on the list is former priest Richard Lavigne, a convicted sex offender accused of sexual abuse by more than 60 people, who died in May. Late last month, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni announced his office had intended to bring murder charges against Lavigne for the killing of 13-year-old altar boy Danny Croteau in 1972.

Lavigne died of COVID-19 just days before that announcement, which was made on the same day that Byrne announced that the diocese would release its updated list. A diocese spokesperson said in a statement that Byrne had already planned the release of an updated list before Gulluni’s announcement.

Matter of trust

In releasing the updated list, Byrne said the primary motive was to make sure the diocese helps victim-survivors get the help, and healing, they deserve.

“In order for a wound to heal it must be completely cleaned out,” Byrne said. “If we want people to hear the message of the gospel, they must trust the teller of the story. And until we open our windows and doors and let this truth be known, that trust can never be built.”

For some, that lack of trust extends to the diocese’s current effort at transparency, according to Mitchell Garabedian, a Massachusetts lawyer well-known for representing victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests.

“Given the Diocese of Springfield’s past attempts to hide the crimes of clergy sexual abuse and its refusal to release the secret files, many clergy sexual abuse victims do not believe that the list is anywhere near complete,” Garabedian said in a statement. “The cover-up continues.”

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


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