An independent investigation commissioned by the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese found allegations of sexual abuse against the late bishop Christopher J. Weldon to be credible.
Retired judge Peter Velis — who led the investigation resulting in a report released Wednesday — interviewed members of the Diocesan Review Board that heard the complaint against Weldon, Archbishop-elect Mitchell Rozanski, and the individual from Chicopee who said he was abused by Weldon when he was a young altar boy.
Velis said the handling of the complaint was "woefully deficient."
Rozanski said he wanted to apologize to the victim, and not just for the abuse.
“I want to apologize for the chronic mishandling of this case time and time again since 2014,” Rozanski said. “In almost every instance, we have failed this courageous man, who nonetheless persevered — thanks, in part, to a reliable support network, as well as to a deep desire for a just response for the terrible abuse which he endured.”
The Velis investigation recommends a transparent system, based on checks and balances, for the church to handle future complaints.
David Clohessy, the former executive director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said there is little hope for genuine reform.
“Weldon was able to molest kids and maintain access to kids and maintain his reputation — not because one or two Springfield Catholic officials goofed up, but because they selfishly put their own comforts and careers first, and the children’s safety second,” Clohessy said. “The solution is for church officials to turn absolutely everything over to the trained, independent, unbiased professionals in law enforcement, and come down like a ton of bricks on every church staffer who ignores or conceals child sex crimes.”
In April, the Springfield Diocese made a commitment to report all allegations of sexual abuse to the appropriate district attorney’s office, and to suspend its own investigations for three months or more if there is a criminal investigation.
Meanwhile, Rozanski said he is directing Trinity Health to “remove the former bishop’s name from its rehab facilities; that the Diocesan cemeteries make necessary plans to move the former bishop’s remains to a less prominent location, marked with a simple gravestone; to immediately remove all honorable mentions, references, memorials and pictures of the former bishop from all Catholic facilities; that his name be placed on our Diocesan website listing all those with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a child or a vulnerable adult.”
Rozanski said he will provide a complete report to the Vatican ambassador in Washington, D.C., and to the regional district attorneys' offices.