Rev. James J. Scahill
James J. Scahill has been a Roman Catholic priest for nearly 50 years, and he’s loathed the church’s hierarchy for about half of that time.
In 1974, the Irish-Catholic boy from Springfield was ordained. His mother was thrilled, while his father was less so, he remembers.
“My mother said, ‘Aren’t you happy? Tomorrow you’ll be a priest of God.’ She was glowing. But my father said, ‘For Christ’s sake, Kay, he’s got himself involved in the most corrupt organization in the world,” the now 75-year-old Scahill recalled during a series of recent interviews.
In retrospect, the parents’ exchange carried a whiff of foreshadowing. Over the past two decades, Scahill has had a profound impact on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield — not for embracing the church, but for rejecting it.
Almost 20 years ago, Scahill withheld a portion of the donations made by his thriving East Longmeadow parish in protest over the diocese’s financial support of the late Rev. Richard Lavigne, who pleaded guilty to child molestation in 1992.
Scahill was transferred to St. Michael’s Parish after having served as parish priest at St. Mary’s Church in East Springfield, where Lavigne did a lot of damage. Lavigne wasn’t a celebrant, as Scahill tells it. Rather, he was a “star,” ginning up his parishioners by denouncing the Vietnam War in the 1970s, all the while raping their sons.
“He was quite the liberal crusader even as he was destroying lives,” Scahill recalled.
Scahill recalled fielding complaints in the early 1990s from St. Mary’s parishioners about Lavigne mistreating their sons, but didn’t gain the traction he hoped to achieve from parishioners or fellow clerics.