Springfield Diocese, DAs Reach Agreement On Reporting Abuse Allegations
There is a new agreement between the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese and prosecutors about the procedures for reporting sex abuse allegations against church employees.
It is a so-called “memorandum of understanding” that was signed by a representative of the diocese and the district attorneys from the Hampden, Berkshire and Northwestern districts. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, whose office represented the other prosecutors in the negotiations with the diocese. The DA’s hot line number to report clergy sex abuse is: 413-800-2958.
The process, Paul, began when discrepancies in particular in reporting of potential or alleged abuses by victims, both for many years ago and more current. So it's no secret that that became an issue with became an issue that became public. It was an issue that I sought to address by establishing a hotline for victims to contact law enforcement directly. And frankly, over the last 12 or 18 months, the diocese was willing to come to the table and negotiate with law enforcement, in my office in particular and other D.A.s’ office is to ensure that there was a clear and uniform and specific process by which law enforcement would be informed when alleged abuse is reported by employees of the diocese, and that process formally in negotiating and crafting and MoU took about a year and the product has been finalized. For some time it was executed recently by the diocese. And on behalf of the Hammond Diaz office assigned by me and two other days. And that is now essentially the process by which any allegations that are reported to the diocese will come to law enforcement for the definite future.
So does this assure then that all allegations the diocese knows of will be reported, and not just the ones that the diocese deems to be credible?
Correct. Correct. It changes the standards, essentially. And that was one of the major problems identified, Paul, is that there really wasn't anything in writing to dictate what and how and when reports were being given to law enforcement of allegations that the diocese was becoming aware of. So now this is much more specific, in that it directs the diocese to forthwith supply reports to law enforcement and all alleged abuses are reported to law enforcement, and really it is done up to the relevant law enforcement agency, the district attorney to say this is being pursued by us and or it’s not, and it can then be handled, you know civilly essentially by the diocese.
And is the diocese then required to hold off on its own internal investigation until the law enforcement probe is done, because I know that was an issue too about, you know, who, you know, not stepping on somebody else's jurisdiction?
That's correct. The memorandum dictates and directs that the diocese hold off for a period of 90 days, unless and until the district attorney informs the diocese one way or another of its decision.
Now, you mentioned the hotline that you set up back in February of 2019 for people to call. Did you get a lot of calls?
We did I mean, we had a number calls and one point I seek to refresh the public about is that that clergy abuse hotline remains operational in my office. We maintain that hotline, we monitor that hotline with state police detectives who are trained in in these kinds of cases and how to appropriately deal with victims. Each and every call will be answered or returned. And any leads and any information that's provided will be followed up on. So while this protocol is now set up with this memorandum of understanding with the diocese, I want to make clear that the clergy abuse hotline is still up and running and it affords victims, as is their right, to communicate directly with law enforcement, should they wish to speak with us directly outside of any contact for the diocese. So I think that's an important thing. We're still very mindful of victims’ rights and we're still very mindful of our responsibilities to victims in what they deserve in the criminal justice system.
Any calls you've received on this hotline led to any prosecutions?
Not to this point, Paul. No. It's led to the provision of services. It's led to investigations, but nothing has come to fruition in terms of charges.
And would it be your preference that someone call your hotline as opposed to going to the church with a complaint?
My preferences are what the victims’ preferences are. One of my most important jobs, and I hold as most important on a daily basis, is working with and on behalf of victims of crime. So if a victim is more comfortable communicating directly with the state police detective and with a member of my office, we are accommodating that each and every day, 24 hours a day with our clergy abuse hotline, if they have had or continue or wish to speak with the diocese and report any allegations, they can do that, and they can rest assured now with this memorandum of understanding that those cases will eventually come to law enforcement, and law enforcement will be able to assess that case and whether there's any charges appropriate, and whether we can provide any services to the victim. So it's really the victims’ choice and that's what we see today for the victims, that they can speak directly with law enforcement or go to the diocese and be assured that there's a process in place.