NATIONAL NEWS

Lawsuit brought by man who said he was sexually abused by Roman Catholic bishop settled

May 26, 2023, 1:53 PM | Updated: 2:58 pm

A lawsuit brought by a former altar boy who said he was raped as a child in the 1960s by a now-deceased Roman Catholic bishop in Massachusetts has been settled, the sides announced Friday.

The plaintiff identified in court papers as John Doe alleged in the suit filed in February 2021 that not only was he abused by former Diocese of Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon as well as two other clergy, but also that the church engaged in a yearslong coverup to protect the bishop’s reputation and legacy.

The suit also said that even after abuse allegations against Weldon were found to be credible, diocesan officials as late as 2019 denied them.

The diocese’s current bishop in a statement announcing the settlement apologized.

“Mr. Doe’s allegations were determined to be credible, therefore, any public statement made on behalf of the Diocese in May or June of 2019 that is inconsistent with that is withdrawn,” Bishop William Byrne said. “We apologize to Mr. Doe for any harm those statements caused. We regret that interaction with the Diocese and civil litigation, often the last stop in trying to resolve these cases, can leave survivors feeling revictimized.”

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The alleged abuse occurred when the plaintiff was an altar boy at St. Anne Parish in Chicopee, Massachusetts when he was from 9 to 11 years old. Weldon served as bishop from 1950 until 1977 and died in 1982.

Before the lawsuit was even filed, a retired Superior Court judge hired by the diocese found that claims of abuse regarding Weldon were “unequivocally credible,” and that there was a “reluctance to fervently pursue an evaluation of allegations against (Weldon) due to his prominence and revered legacy in the religious community.”

“The fact that Mr. Doe was forced to pursue litigation in the face of the report prepared by retired Judge Peter A. Velis, confirms the Church’s continuing failure, despite protestations to the contrary, to accept responsibility for the atrocities committed,” Nancy Frankel Pelletier, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said in a statement.

Bishop Byrne commended the plaintiff for coming forward and said the church has learned how to better respond to abuse allegations. Concealing or dissuading anyone from reporting abuse will not be tolerated, he said.

“It is Mr. Doe’s hope that Bishop Byrne’s statement will be heeded, and that no other survivor will be revictimized for speaking their truth,” Pelletier said.

The diocese fought to have the suit dismissed based on charitable immunity and the doctrine of church autonomy, derived from the First Amendment, even taking their case to the state’s highest court. The Supreme Judicial Court, however, last July ruled in the plaintiff’s favor.

National News

Associated Press

California man charged with killing gay college student takes the stand

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A California man charged with killing a gay University of Pennsylvania student in an alleged hate crime six years ago testified Tuesday about how the two men connected on social media and went to a park. It was the last time the victim was seen. Samuel Woodward, 26, took the […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Alaska did not provide accessible voting for those with disabilities, US Justice Department alleges

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The state of Alaska has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act for not providing accessible machines for in-person voting, the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday. The state was also faulted for selecting inaccessible polling places and operating a state elections website that can’t be accessed by everyone. The department informed […]

2 hours ago

Image: Water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Almota on Ap...

Associated Press

US acknowledges Northwest dams have devastated the region’s Native tribes

The U.S. government acknowledged for the first time the harms the construction and operation of dams on two rivers have caused tribes.

2 hours ago

Associated Press

New York’s ‘equal rights’ constitutional amendment restored to ballot by appeals court

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A proposed amendment to New York’s constitution barring discrimination based on “gender identity” and “pregnancy outcomes” was restored to the November election ballot Tuesday by a state appeals court. In a short decision, a panel of midlevel appellate judges overturned a May decision by an upstate judge to strike the proposed […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Texas megachurch pastor resigns after woman says he sexually abused her in the 1980s

DALLAS (AP) — The pastor of a Texas megachurch has resigned after a woman said he had sexually abused her on multiple occasions in the 1980s, beginning when she was 12. Gateway Church’s board of elders said in a statement Tuesday that they’d accepted the resignation of Robert Morris, the church’s senior pastor and founder. […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump declares ‘I love Milwaukee’ after reportedly using the word ‘horrible’ for the RNC host city

RACINE, Wisconsin (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday repeatedly praised Milwaukee just weeks before it hosts the Republican National Convention, playing cleanup after he reportedly used the word “horrible” in talking about swing-state Wisconsin’s largest city. “I love Milwaukee,” Trump told the crowd in nearby Racine, Wisconsin. He was reported to have used […]

4 hours ago

Lawsuit brought by man who said he was sexually abused by Roman Catholic bishop settled