A top law enforcement official in western Massachusetts has launched a new initiative to investigate clergy sex abuse.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni Tuesday announced the creation of a hotline for people to report cases of clergy sex abuse directly to law enforcement.
"I have established this hotline to assure the rights of victims are preserved and any allegations can be propergly vetted and investigated by law enforcement where appropriate," said Gulluni.
He said he was moved to establish the hotline (413-800-2958) because of abuse data publicly reported earlier this month by the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese and a discrepancy in referrals to his office.
Fifteen cases of alleged clergy sex abuse were reported to the diocese in 2018 – the highest number since 2004. Most of the incidents reported last year were alleged to have happened decades ago.
At the time of the report’s release, diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont observed the spike in the number of claims coincided with news coverage of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse.
The diocese, which covers the four western counties in Massachusetts, has had a hotline (800-842-9055) for people to report clergy sex abuse cases since 1993.
The prosecutor said his hotline will let victims, who may feel trepidation contacting the church, talk directly to law enforcement.
"Certainly sexual abuse and abuse against children is a societal issue, is a widespread issue, but I don't think there is any question the concentration of the issue within the Catholic church in past decades is unlike anything we have seen," said Gulluni.
Cases of clergy sex abuse reported to the diocese are supposed to be referred to local law enforcement, but Gulluni said Tuesday it is not clear that all of the newly reported cases that should have been referred to his office actually were.
"It is an ongoing dialogue with the diocese and hopefully we can straighten this out," said Gulluni.
In a statement, Dupont said the diocese is talking with all the district attorneys in western Massachusetts to update and improve the reporting system.
Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski has been holding a series of meetings with parishioners to answer questions about how the diocese responds to clergy sex abuse allegations.
The diocese published a special report that outlines the normal procedure for handling abuse reports.
According to the diocese, almost $15 million has been paid to resolve 147 abuse claims since 1992. Additionally, $2.25 million has been spent for therapy and counseling.