A lawsuit brought by a former altar boy who said he was raped as a child by a deceased Roman Catholic bishop in Massachusetts in the 1960s has settled, the parties announced Friday.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in February 2021, identified in court papers as John Doe, alleged that not only had he been abused by former Diocese of Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon, as well as two other clergy, but also that the church engaged in a year-long coverup to protect Bishop’s reputation and legacy.
The suit also states that even after the abuse allegations against Weldon were found to be credible, diocesan officials denied them as late as 2019.
The current bishop of the diocese apologized in a statement announcing the settlement.
“Mr. Doe’s allegations were determined to be credible, therefore, any public statements made by the Diocese in May or June of 2019 that are inconsistent with them are retracted,” said Bishop William Byrne. . We regret that negotiations with the Diocese and civil litigation, often the last resort in trying to resolve these cases, can leave survivors feeling re-victimized.”
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The alleged abuse occurred when plaintiff was an altar boy at St. Anne Parish in Chicopee, Massachusetts, when he was 9 to 11 years old. Weldon served as bishop from 1950 to 1977 and died in 1982.
A retired Superior Court judge hired by the diocese even before the suit was filed found that the abuse claims about Weldon were “unequivocally credible” and called for his cause to zealously pursue an evaluation of the allegations against (Weldon). I was “reluctant”. Prominence and respected legacy in the religious community.
“The fact that Mr. Doe was forced to pursue litigation in the face of a report prepared by retired judge Peter A. Wellis confirms the Church’s continued failure, despite protests to the contrary, to address the atrocities committed.” to accept responsibility for,” Pelletier, a lawyer for the Nancy Frankel plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Bishop Byrne commended the plaintiffs for coming forward and said the church had learned to better respond to allegations of abuse. Hiding or refusing to report abuse will not be tolerated, he added.
“It is Mr. Doe’s hope that Bishop Byrne’s statement will be heeded, and that no living person will be victimized again for speaking the truth,” Pelletier said.
The diocese fought to have the lawsuit dismissed based on the principle of charitable immunity and church autonomy derived from the First Amendment, even taking their case to the state’s highest court. The Supreme Court of Justice, however, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs last July.