- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A prosecutor said yesterday he will pursue sex-abuse charges against retired Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre, who could become the first bishop charged in the sex scandal that engulfed the Roman Catholic Church two years ago.

Bishop Dupre is accused of plying two altar boys with alcohol and molesting them while he was a parish priest in the 1970s.

“I believe that there is a serious potential here that for the very first time in the United States and possibly in the world, there could be a prosecution of a U.S. bishop for crimes relating to the sexual abuse of children,” said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents the accusers.

There have been at least a dozen grand jury investigations involving how bishops dealt with abuse claims, and four bishops have resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct.

Bishop Dupre, 70, stepped down Feb. 11, citing health reasons. His retirement came a day after the Republican newspaper of Springfield confronted him with the abuse accusations.

Bishop Dupre’s lawyer, Michael Jennings, has not commented on the possible indictment. He did not immediately return a call for comment yesterday.

Mr. MacLeish has said Bishop Dupre sexually abused the boys for years and asked them to keep quiet about the abuse when he was made auxiliary bishop in 1990.

“I have determined that there is probable cause to support these allegations,” Hampden District Attorney William Bennett said. “Therefore, I have decided to present the matter to the grand jury for a full and complete review of all evidence.”

Mr. Bennett said the statute of limitations on the reported abuse has likely expired, but because Bishop Dupre reportedly tried to conceal the abuse as recently as last year, it may still be possible to charge him with molesting the boys.

Both accusers have met with officials from the Springfield Diocese and Boston Archdiocese, where the scandal broke. Earlier this week, the Vatican received a report on the church’s internal investigation.

Bishop Dupre served nine years as head of the diocese in Springfield, about 90 miles west of Boston.

Since his retirement, Bishop Dupre has been at St. Luke Institute, a private Catholic psychiatric hospital in Maryland where the Boston Archdiocese sent many priests for treatment after sexual abuse accusations were made against them. The institute treats priests with emotional, behavioral and psychological problems.

Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the Diocese of Springfield, said, “The diocese will continue to cooperate in this investigation.”

Mr. Bennett said investigators searched Bishop Dupre’s office at the chancery and seized files. He would not specify the nature of the files taken by authorities.

One of the bishop’s accusers was 12 years old and a recent immigrant to the United States when Bishop Dupre befriended his family and offered to teach the child English.

The other accuser, who is homosexual, came forward with his claims after hearing Bishop Dupre speak out against the legalization of same-sex “marriage,” Mr. MacLeish said.

Mr. MacLeish said his clients agreed to remain silent, and kept in touch with Bishop Dupre after he was appointed bishop in 1995. Bishop Dupre sent one client birthday and holiday cards, and occasionally gave him money.

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