Springfield (MA) diocese settles with 46 abuse victims

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) The Springfield Diocese reached a proposed settlement of more than $7 million Thursday with 46 people who accused priests of molesting them when they were children....

''I'm overwhelmed,'' said Marty Bono, a Chicopee man who says he was molested by a priest in 1971. ''I've been crying ever since I heard.''

''I respect the bishop,'' Bono said. ''He's done in four months what (his predecessor) couldn't do for a year and a half.''

Not everyone was happy. Andre Tessier, 45, who says he was abused by [ex-priest Richard] Lavigne in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he lived in Springfield, will reluctantly accept the deal to try and put some of the stress behind him.

''I can't deal with them anymore, I don't care if I get $10,'' said Tessier, who said he is no longer a Catholic....

Peter Pollard, coordinator of the Springfield chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a victims advocacy group, said the settlements will not address all the problems the victims face.

''No amount of money can really compensate for the amount of damage that was done to people,'' he said. ''That includes both the actual abuse and the failure of the church heirarchy[sic] to intervene effectively to protect the victims.'' ...

The settlement came three months after Bishop Timothy McDonnell was installed as head of the western Massachusetts diocese. He replaced Bishop Thomas Dupre, who resigned amid accusations that he had molested two boys in the 1970s.

Shortly after McDonnell arrived, lawsuits filed against the diocese were put on hold to allow settlement talks to take place.

Days after being installed as bishop on April 1, McDonnell met with mediator Paul Finn, who had helped broker a $90 million settlement between the Boston Archdiocese and more than 550 clergy sex-abuse victims.

McDonnell said in June that the diocese was selling some of its property to pay for the anticipated settlements. A month earlier, the diocese offered a $7 million settlement which was rejected when some said the amount wasn't enough.

The new bishop received widespread applause throughout the four-county diocese for his willingness to bring healing to a church shocked by the abuse allegations against Dupre, who resigned in February after serving nearly nine years as bishop.

Dupre left his post citing health reasons, but the pope accepted his resignation the day after the Republican newspaper of Springfield confronted him with the abuse allegations....

Lavigne, who was defrocked by the Vatican in November, was sentenced to 10 years' probation after pleading guilty to molesting two boys in 1992.

Probation? The guy molested two boys and got probation?

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

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