Sex Abuse Claim Against Late Springfield Bishop Filed With District Attorney | WAMC

Sex Abuse Claim Against Late Springfield Bishop Filed With District Attorney

Jun 24, 2019

Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, seen here with officials from the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance, referred a claim of sex abuse against late Springfield Bishop Christopher Welden to the Hampden District Attorney.
Credit WAMC

    A former bishop in the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese is accused of sexually abusing an altar boy. 

   A claim of sex abuse allegedly committed by Christopher Weldon, who led the Catholic church in western Massachusetts as bishop for 27 years and died in 1982, has been referred to law enforcement.

    The formal complaint was filed with the Hampden County District Attorney’s office by the Springfield diocese following a meeting last week between Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski and a man who alleges Weldon sexually abused him in the 1960s.

    Until now, the diocese had claimed there were no credible accusations against Weldon.

    The man accusing the late bishop, identified in published reports only as a Chicopee resident who is in his 60s, made his first complaint to the diocese about abuse several years ago and testified last year before the diocesan review board, where he accused Weldon and two other priests, who are both deceased, according to the Berkshire Eagle.

     A statement from the chairman of the review board last month denied Weldon was named.

     Rozanski’s face-to-face meeting with the alleged victim came just days after the bishop held a news conference about the reorganization of the diocesan office responsible for overseeing clergy sex abuse allegations.

     " We will build upon a system, though not perfect, has done a commendable job responding to past complaints," said Rozanski.

     The diocese will deal with the accusation against Weldon under new directives that came this month from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  As Rozanski explained, this requires an investigation by an independent third-party.

     "The catch with the bishops is that only the Pope  can discipline bishops," said Rozanski.

      There has been friction between the Springfield diocese and the office of Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni over referrals of clergy sex abuse allegations.

      Earlier this year, Gulluni announced a hotline for people to call law enforcement directly to make a report of clergy sex abuse.  He said at a news conference that data reported by the diocese about sex abuse claims received by the church in 2018 did not match records on file in his office.

   " It is an ongoing dialogue with the diocese and its representatives and we are hopeful we can straighten this out," said Gulluni at a news conference in late February. 

     Gulluni urged people who are victims of clergy sex abuse to contact his office through the hotline, even if they already made a report to the diocese.  He reinterated that in a written statment from his office last month.

     Weldon is the second Springfield bishop accused of sexual abuse.

      Thomas Dupre resigned as bishop in 2004 and was removed from public ministry by the Vatican after he was accused of abuse. 

      Dupre, who died in 2016, was the first Roman Catholic bishop to be indicted in the United States in the clergy sex abuse scandal.  He did not stand trial because prosecutors said the statute of limitations had expired.

     The diocese said three men who had accused Dupre were part of a $4.5 million settlement agreement in 2008 with 59 clergy sex abuse victims.