Long wait for trial just shortened for former altar boy who survived clergy abuse | Local News


SPRINGFIELD – A 69-year-old complainant shouldn’t wait.

After hearing this plea from a lawyer, a Springfield judge ruled last week that the former Chicopee choirboy raped by a once famous bishop deserved his civil lawsuit to be heard as soon as possible.

Until the ruling is rendered by Judge Karen L. Goodwin on Wednesday, the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, would have to wait a year or more as defendants appeal an earlier ruling.

Goodwin scribbled the word “Authorized” on a court document submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Nancy Frankel Pelletier, and held a status conference for 3:30 p.m. on October 21 at Hampden Superior Court, during which lawyers will discuss the trial schedule.

His decision is another setback for lawyers for the Diocese of Springfield, who have claimed in court records that their clients, including the diocese itself, cannot be prosecuted due to charitable immunity under the law. . They also claimed that the First Amendment prohibited courts like this from adjudicating ecclesiastical disputes “involving the interpretation of ecclesiastical norms.”

Carolee McGrath, spokesperson for the diocese, said the church is not commenting on ongoing civil disputes.

Goodwin rejected both of these arguments and set a date for the trial, filed in February, to go to trial. “The parties will submit jointly or separately if they cannot agree [to] a proposed schedule, ”wrote the judge.

Goodwin’s ruling means defendants’ attorneys will have to present a defense in Hampden Superior Court even as they prepare to argue, on appeal, that Goodwin erred in June by dismissing their earlier motion to dismiss the entire complaint.

Plaintiff says he was raped by former bishop Christopher J. Weldon in the early 1960s – then vilified and neglected by local church officials after coming out as an adult to report his abuse . The lawsuit claims the diocese and eight other defendants, including former bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, engaged in a cover-up and civil conspiracy against the plaintiff.

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The man’s allegations against Weldon were deemed credible in 2020 after an independent investigation by retired judge Peter A. Velis, a review ordered by Rozanski.

The lawsuit alleges people who work or have worked for the diocese, including its longtime lawyer, John. J. Egan, was instrumental in cracking down on the mistreatment of the Complainant by Weldon and two other clergymen in the 1960s, starting at the age of 9.

Inside the decision

Goodwin’s decision denied the diocese’s requests for immunity. “The case law interpreting common law immunity in charitable matters cannot be interpreted fairly to give charities free rein to immunity from prosecution simply because their articles of incorporation prove charitable purposes,” wrote the judge.

Instead, she writes, the immunity applies to “negligence committed in the course of activities carried out to perform charitable activities.”

Goodwin concludes that the counts in the plaintiff’s complaint include alleged intentional harm. “Common law charitable immunity would not apply to these claims,” ​​she wrote.

The assaults involving Weldon began when the plaintiff was serving as an altar boy and occurred at St. Anne’s Parish in Chicopee and other locations, including Holy Cross Camp in Goshen, according to the lawsuit.

“The complainant was subjected to heinous acts of abuse committed against him, including severe anal penetration by several perpetrators, including Weldon, [Clarence] Forand, and [Edward George] Authier ”, indicates the costume.

These three members of the clergy, now deceased, are listed by the diocese as having sexually assaulted children. Authier’s name was added after the lawsuit was filed.

“The plaintiff was taken to a rectory room at Sainte-Anne parish and various other places where they and others violently raped and assaulted him,” the lawsuit says.

In a long footnote, Goodwin says that no Massachusetts appeals court “has held that a charity enjoys immunity from prosecution for the types of allegations of intentional misconduct causing harm. bodily injuries such as those alleged here… ”.

Goodwin dismissed the defense’s motion to stay the court proceedings until the appeal is decided, writing that “the defendants have failed to meet their onus to seek a stay …”.

Along with Rozaski and Egan, the complaint names Patricia McManamy, Monsignor Christopher Connelly, Jeffrey Trant, John Hale, Kevin Murphy and Mark Dupont as defendants. It also names the legal entity known as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, a unique corporation.

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