Springfield Diocesan Review Board
SPRINGFIELD — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield’s volunteer Diocesan Review Board has begun bleeding members in the wake of the so-called Weldon Report, with one intending to abandon the church altogether.
A 350-page analysis released in late June, authored by retired Judge Peter Velis, found the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon repeatedly raped a young boy during the early 1960s. The victim told investigators Weldon was part of a cabal of priests who sexually passed around young boys at a rectory and campground during that era.
Weldon was leader of local Catholic churches from 1950 to 1977. He died in 1982.
The Diocesan Review Board is tasked with hearing accounts of alleged clergy abuse and assessing their credibility for church officials, who can then recommend a variety of repercussions to the Vatican.
After the report was released, there has been rancor between some board members and the diocese focused on the handling of the victim’s early disclosures. Any whiff of an attempted cover-up should be assigned to the diocese and not the board, two members argue, although a spokesman for the church says there was not one.
Longtime member Theresa Finnegan and Chairman John Hale resigned from the panel this week, contending a former diocesan investigator and diocesan staff manipulated the initial investigation and left the volunteer board to appear culpable in both the report and media coverage.
“I strongly feel that any wrongdoing was done by the employees of the diocese and not the Review Board,” said Finnegan, an attorney from Wilbraham. “We’re volunteers giving our time to try to make the church a safer place and it’s not an easy job.”