Category Archives: Roman Catholic Church

One of the most perverted, murderous, butchers of all the christian religious sects. Responsible for the mass murder of millions of innocent people during the Inquisitions, the slaughter of Native Americans and of course, the pervert priests who rape children and their bishops and pope who cover their asses and cover this up.

Bill Pig Face Donohue of the Catholic League shoves his foot down his pig throat over the movie Spotlight

Bill Pig Face Donohue of the Catholic League shoves his foot down his pig throat over the movie Spotlight

The Infamous Bill Pig Face Donohue, President of the Catholic League and Defender of the Degenerates of the Unholy Roman Catholic Church of Pedophile Pimps, Priests and Nuns

The Infamous Bill Pig Face Donohue, President of the Catholic League and Defender of the Degenerates of the Unholy Roman Catholic Church of Pedophile Pimps, Priests and Nuns

Yuppers, got to hand it to Bill Pig Face Donohue, President of the Catholic League and Defender of the Degnerates of the Unholy Roman Catholic Church of Pedophile Pimps, Priests, Nuns and the Parishioners who bow down and suck their dicks in unholy love.

1. First posting on Spotlight from Pig Faces Posting on the Catholic League blog, titled

“SPOTLIGHT” EXAMINES ABUSE SCANDAL which then contains a link to a pdf file written by Donohue at the following link: SHINING THE LIGHT ON “SPOTLIGHT” Bill Donohue. Now Bilbo Dildo makes the following statement:

“In the Catholic League‘s 2002 Annual Report, I even defended the media. “The Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and the New York Times covered the story with professionalism,” I wrote”

2. But Bilbo Dildo attacks the Boston Globe in a new posting BOSTON GLOBE REEKS OF BIAS on his Catholic League blog as follows:

“On the front page of the Metro Section in today’s Boston Globe, there is a story about the movie “Spotlight” that smacks of bias and gullibility; the former is driving the latter.”

He goes on to spew his typical bullshit defense of the Unholy Roman Catholic Cult of Pedophiles, as usual:

“Lisa Wangsness relies on Terence McKiernan of Bishop Accountability for her data. She writes that he told her that “the bishops could have agreed to make lists of abusive priests available nationwide.” Referring to him again, she writes that “More than 2,400 abusive priests nationwide have never been named.”

First, McKiernan is known for making up figures on the fly. A few years ago, after he told a sympathetic audience he was going to “stick it” to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, he accused him of “keeping the lid on 55 priests.” That is a lie. Several times I have personally challenged him to name the names and every time he runs.

Second, the term “abusive priests” is meaningless. Were they simply accused or was there a credible accusation made against them? Were the accusations substantiated or unsubstantiated? Was there a finding of guilt? Wangsness never tells us because it obviously doesn’t matter to her.

Third, what institution, including the Boston Globe, publishes the names of employees who have had an accusation made against them?

Fourth, how does McKiernan know there are 2,400 priests who have never been named? Did she ask him for verification?

Fifth, the figures for the Boston Archdiocese undercut the point that she and McKiernan are making. Indeed, there are more unsubstantiated accusations than there are findings of guilt.

Then the disgusting troglodyte Donohue, who couldn’t get laid even if he went into a women’s prison with a fistful of pardons, let along to the local pig farmer to be introduced to the farmers sows, Bilbo Dildo spews even more well worn bullshit from his well used outhouse piehole. From his Catholic League posting LOUSY JOURNALISM ON “SPOTLIGHT”

3. “Bill Donohue comments on the way journalists are handling “Spotlight”:

“Spotlight,” which opens today, is being heralded as an example of solid journalism, the kind of movie that should be shown in college journalism classes. Ironically, many journalists who are touting the movie are proving just how lousy they are at their craft.

Journalists for the following media outlets got their facts wrong:

New York Post; The Daily Commercial; Associated Press; Wall Street Journal; Boston Globe; National Catholic Reporter; Vanity Fair; Los Angeles Daily News; Christianity Today;; New Yorker; New York; Observer; Chicago Reader;; The Verge;; SLANT; Paste;; filmcomment.

Whether through laziness or ignorance, all of these sources misrepresented the facts by saying the problem was pedophilia. As the John Jay College of Criminal Justice researchers pointed out, less than 5 percent of the molesting priests were pedophiles. They found that 81 percent of the victims were male and 78 percent of them were postpubescent. That means the abusers were homosexuals.

Not to admit this is an expression of journalistic malfeasance, the kind that ought to be discussed in the classroom.”

So here is the Pig Face, again, trashing the Boston Globe and others, he formerly defended as these news organizations for their professionalism in their reporting on the story, and now here he is trashing them for the same damn thing.

Of course, he then spews his typical bullshit about this being a homosexual and not a pedophile problem, using the John Jay College of Criminal Justice research, but totally ignores what the researchers said to his sorry ass way back in 2010:

“Whether through laziness or ignorance, all of these sources misrepresented the facts by saying the problem was pedophilia. As the John Jay College of Criminal Justice researchers pointed out, less than 5 percent of the molesting priests were pedophiles. They found that 81 percent of the victims were male and 78 percent of them were postpubescent. That means the abusers were homosexuals.”

But in an interview with Media Matters, Margaret Smith — a John Jay College criminologist who worked on the 2004 study — said that while Donohue “quoted the study’s data correctly,” he “drew an unwarranted conclusion” in asserting that most of the abusers were gay.

Explaining that it is an oversimplification to assume to that priests who abuse male victims are gay, Smith said: “The majority of the abusive acts were homosexual in nature. That participation in homosexual acts is not the same as sexual identity as a gay man.”

As an example, Smith pointed to the case of Marcial Maciel Degollado, a prominent Mexican priest who allegedly abused male children and also allegedly carried on affairs with multiple women. Smith noted that while Maciel allegedly abused boys, most people would not think of him as a gay man.

“What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse,” said Margaret Smith, a researcher from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which is conducting an independent study of sexual abuse in the priesthood from 1950 up to 2002. “At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse.”

Seems Bill Pig Face Donohue of the Catholic League will use the John Jay report to make his false assertions that this is a homosexual and not a pedophile problem, but ignore what the very researcher and other researchers on this problem of child rape, pedophiles and other sex crimes against children, said to him.

Bilbo Dildo…to be very honest with you? I do hope that after your next Christmas party, where you are getting all drunk? You get behind the wheel of your car and smash it into a tree or a bridge abutment or drive it off a bridge. You really just need to fucking die you punk assed, low life, piece of shit scumbag trodlodyte…and go burn in hell for all eternity, being gang-raped by the demons of hell.


Judge denies former Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre motion to keep video testimony from public

Judge denies former Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre motion to keep video testimony from public

By Stephanie Barry |
on July 15, 2010 at 5:08 PM, updated July 19, 2010 at 9:19 PM

From the link:

The Republican file photo / Dave RobackThe Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, left, former bishop of the Springfield Catholic Diocese, speaks at a press conference in 2003 about a plan to handle abuse by priests. A year later he was accused of molesting two boys in Holyoke.

The Republican file photo / Dave RobackThe Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, left, former bishop of the Springfield Catholic Diocese, speaks at a press conference in 2003 about a plan to handle abuse by priests. A year later he was accused of molesting two boys in Holyoke.

SPRINGFIELD – As his defense lawyer feared, a videotaped deposition of disgraced Bishop Thomas L. Dupre may soon make the Internet in the wink of a cybereye, after a Hampden Superior Court judge denied his motion to keep the interview from the public.

During a court hearing on Wednesday, lawyers wrangled over whether a three-hour interview taped in connection with a civil lawsuit against Dupre and other church officials should be made available for public consumption.

Dupre’s lawyer, Michael O. Jennings, argued that the interview featured his client asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself for three hours, and that making it public would serve no other purpose than to embarrass him.

“It will only serve to cause him embarrassment, harassment, or perhaps worse. This will be on the Internet by tomorrow night,” Jennings told Judge Bertha D. Josephson, who was apparently unconvinced by the argument and denied the motion on Thursday afternoon.

Dupre was bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield until 2004 when he retired overnight and fled to a Maryland treatment center for priests amid molestation allegations. Two men later sued him for sexually abusing them during the 1970s while they were teens and Dupre was a parish priest. The prelate eventually settled out of court with his accusers for an undisclosed sum.

Dupre was in 2004 charged with child rape in connection with the allegations, but the prosecution stalled because the case was so old.

More recently, the prelate was named in a lawsuit by a Williamstown man who said Dupre and other church officials failed to properly supervise a priest who molested him during the 1980s. Plaintiffs’ lawyer John J. Stobierski conducted a videotaped interview on April 16 in connection with that complaint.

After stating his name and date of birth, Dupre pleaded the fifth in response to three hours of questions, Stobierski said. According to local Catholic officials, he has voluntarily retired from any public ministry.

However, Stobierski said Dupre wore his clerical collar throughout the interview. The lawyer opposed Jennings’ motion to keep the deposition under wraps, and said he was pleased with Josephson’s ruling.

“We think it’s consistent with the law as well as the spirit of openness in these matters,” Stobierski said.

Jennings said he may appeal the ruling. Stobierski said he will give the defense lawyer until Monday to consider that, and will disseminate the video then if he declines to appeal.

Dupre Deposition Transcript

Bishop Indicted For Child Rape

Bishop Indicted For Child Rape

Murder Haunts Catholic Church Charges Of Sexual Abuse Reopens An Old Murder Investigation

Murder Haunts Catholic Church

Charges Of Sexual Abuse Reopens An Old Murder Investigation

Correspondent Rebecca Leung

May 24, 2005

From the link:

File photo / The RepublicanCarl and Bernice Croteau stand in front of a portrait of their murdered son, Danny, in their Springfield home in this 2003 photo.

File photo / The RepublicanCarl and Bernice Croteau stand in front of a portrait of their murdered son, Danny, in their Springfield home in this 2003 photo.

Danny Croteau, a 13-year-old altar boy from Springfield, Mass., was murdered — a murder most foul. His body was found bloodied, battered and floating in a river.

A suspect was identified almost immediately. It was someone who knew Danny and his family well. But that suspect was never arrested, and still lives only a few miles away.

What makes all of this remarkable is that Croteau’s murder happened 33 years ago. Now, an investigation has been re-opened into the case that has tortured Springfield, its police force, and Danny’s parents ever since. reports.

“I still hear Danny hailing for help. It’s horrible,” says Danny’s mother, Bunny. She and Danny’s father, Carl, are haunted by their son’s murder.

“It’s just been a nightmare,” says Carl Croteau.

The Croteaus had seven children, including five boys. Danny was their youngest son.

“What did the police tell you when they first came,” asks Rather.

“Well, they said that Danny had been in trouble,” recalls Carl Croteau. “And I say, ‘What do you mean … did he do something wrong?’ And they said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘It’s worse than that.’ He says, ‘We found him, murdered and floating in the Chicopee River.'”

The parents couldn’t imagine who would murder their son, and neither could police. Former State Det. Ed Harrington, who helped investigate the case, took 60 Minutes Wednesday to the spot where Danny’s body was found.

“Adjacent to the body was a rock that we believe was used to smash his head in,” says Harrington, who believes that was the murder instrument.

As soon as they heard the awful news, the Croteaus, devout Roman Catholics, turned to their parish priest, Father Richard Lavigne. Danny had been an altar boy for Father Lavigne.

“He used to come over to the house three, four times a week,” says Carl Croteau. “Wasn’t a weekend passed that Danny wouldn’t be with him.”

Lavigne identified Danny’s body to police and participated in the funeral Mass. But soon after Danny’s burial, the man who had been the family’s comfort and support became something else: a suspect.

“Within five to seven days, information had been developed that a family friend, Richard Lavigne, who was a parish priest, might be involved,” says Harrington.

Was he the only suspect? “The only one that I was ever aware of,” says Harrington. “That was ever investigated.”

Harrington cites circumstantial evidence against Lavigne, including the fact that Lavigne denied ever having been alone with Danny. A police report said officers quickly learned that “Danny and Father Lavigne were often alone.” The report also said the priest asked questions that police believed “were consistent with those that are often asked by the perpetrator of a crime.” But with no witnesses and no firm physical evidence, the district attorney at the time chose not to prosecute Lavigne. Harrington concurred.

“The fear was that if we tried to bring it to trial, we wouldn’t have enough evidence and lose it,” says Harrington. “And then, of course, we’d never be able to bring him to trial again.”

“So you were convinced he did it, but you were convinced you couldn’t get a conviction?” asks Rather.

“Correct,” says Harrington.

At the time, Lavigne insisted he was innocent and still does. While he refused to speak on camera, his lawyers sent 60 Minutes Wednesday a letter listing powerful, concrete evidence of his own, including “the tire tread marks left at the scene of the crime…did not match the tires on Richard Lavigne’s car or his family’s car.” They also point out that a DNA analysis of “blood found at the crime scene…was not Richard Lavigne’s blood.”

And at the time of the crime, Lavigne was a respected figure in the community. Carl Croteau says the district attorney told him, “‘Where could I get 12 jurors to convict a Catholic priest?'”

For two decades after Danny’s murder, Lavigne continued to work quietly in the diocese of Springfield until 1991. That’s when men began coming forward to charge that Lavigne had sexually molested them when they were boys. First, a group of five men made the charges. Later, others followed, 43 in all.

Danny’s friends, Steve Block and Tom Martin, claimed that the parish priest had a motive for the murder, to hide a dark secret that Danny was threatening to tell.

“He told me that he hated Father Lavigne and he hurt him,” says Martin. “And I knew exactly what that meant.”

What that meant, Martin charges, was that Lavigne was sexually abusing Danny, just as he had molested Martin and other boys at the church. “He forced me into oral sex on him twice,” says Martin, when he was 8.

“He actually invited me over to the rectory to make breakfast. And at that point is when he took the initiative to move me into another room, sexually assault me,” adds Block, who says this happened when he was 12. “And told me ‘Christ suffered and so should I?’ Things like that.”

Were they aware that there were other boys being abused?

“The only time that I ever spoke about it was with Steven, and the only thing we ever said to each other was ‘Is he doing the same thing to you?'” says Martin. “And the only other person that ever said anything to me about Father Lavigne was Danny Croteau.”

Danny’s parents say that soon after the murder, three of their other sons admitted that Lavigne had sexually molested them, too. The family did not go public with those allegations at the time. But when some of the other victims did go public years later, Lavigne was charged with criminal sexual abuse. At first, he claimed innocence.

But then, he changed his plea to guilty when he was offered a deal: admit to molesting two boys in return for no jail time, no new prosecutions for sex crimes committed earlier, and 10 years probation, including treatment at Saint Luke’s in Maryland, a hospital specializing in therapy for pedophile priests.

After seven months there, Lavigne returned to the Springfield diocese, where the diocese wrote: “Lavigne would no longer be able to function nor present himself as a priest.” But he was not formally defrocked, despite being listed as a Level 3 sex offender, and designated a high risk to re-offend. He continued to be paid a monthly salary of over $1,000 plus benefits, even as the diocese paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed by his abuse victims.

“You know, I was an altar boy myself, and I never had an inkling that a priest would ever abuse anybody, never mind murder anybody,” says Carl Croteau.

The molestation case caused police to look into Danny’s murder again, but they said they still didn’t have enough evidence to bring charges against Lavigne. That didn’t end the outrage in the community, though.

Springfield resident Warren Mason wanted the diocese to take action: “I’m the father of three young, healthy boys. And to see that, I’d look at them and I’d say, ‘How could somebody do this to an innocent child?'”

In 2002, Mason took his concerns to his local parish, St. Michael’s, located less than five miles from Lavigne’s old church. To his surprise, he found a receptive audience.

“Molestation of children is evil and there’s no other name for it,” says Sister Mary McGeer. “When we cover it up, it’s evil. When people cover it up, the people that are covering it up are evil.”

Then, Mason met with the Rev. James Scahill, pastor of St. Michael’s, and made a radical proposal: that the congregation withhold from the Springfield diocese the 6 percent contribution that every parish is required to send up to its bishop, until and unless Father Lavigne was defrocked and removed from the diocese payroll.

“I told him at that meeting that as long as Father Richard Lavigne was receiving any sustenance from the diocese, I wouldn’t give any money to the church, and I flippantly said, ‘Hold back the 6 percent,'” says Mason. “And father looked like he was gonna pass out about that point in time.”

Even so, Scahill agreed to submit that ultimatum to the head of the Springfield diocese, Bishop Thomas Dupre. The bishop’s spokesman characterizes the bishop’s reaction as “disappointed.”

Scahill describes him as furious: “He said what? And I told him again. And he said, ‘You cannot do that.’ He says, ‘There’s no conversation relative to this matter. You absolutely cannot do that.'”

Scahill says that Dupre threatened to suspend him. And McGeer says other local priests treated him as a traitor.

Why isn’t there widespread support? “There’s a very strong silence that goes on in that priesthood,” says McGeer. “As a result, priests are not breaking that silence. They’re staying together with it.”

“The church must become accountable. The church must change,” says Scahill, who spread the message by speaking out for victims of sexual abuse and against Dupre. McGeer encouraged church members to support their cause. Mason bombarded newspapers with letters demanding that the bishop defrock Lavigne.

In January 2003, the Springfield diocese initiated procedures to remove Lavigne. Then in October 2003, Scahill received a phone call from a concerned mother. She had been following the news about his battles with the bishop, and she had something Scahill needed to know.

“[She said] that her son and one of his friends had been abused by Bishop Dupre,” says Scahill.

Scahill met the two men, who repeated the charges. Then reporter Bill Zajac of the Springfield Republic got wind of the allegations. And in February 2004, he asked Dupre to respond.

“The next morning, I woke up and then I heard the news that the bishop had resigned his position and he had checked himself into a hospital the night before,” says Zajac.

Seven months later, Dupre was indicted for statutory rape, the first U.S. Roman Catholic bishop to be charged with sexual abuse. He pleaded not guilty, and the charges were later dropped because the statute of limitations had expired.

Shortly before Dupre’s resignation, Lavigne was defrocked and soon afterward his financial support ended. The diocese told 60 Minutes Wednesday the public pressure had nothing to do with it. But McGeer disagrees: “I do believe Richard Lavigne would still be a priest and that Thomas Dupre would still be the bishop in Springfield, had we not taken some action.”

Last summer, Scahill and his congregation celebrated their victory. “We have the belief that what we have done at St. Michael’s has made children safer for all times and victims have been given voice to begin their healing,” says Scahill.

The investigation into Danny Croteau’s murder was reopened two years ago, but some detectives fear that too much time has passed, that not enough new evidence can be found to bring charges. And Lavigne – no longer Father Lavigne — still lives in Springfield. And Carl and Bunny Croteau still attend Catholic Mass every day.

That Dupre is still a Catholic bishop in good standing 15 months after his resignation, his whereabouts unknown, is both troubling and disgraceful. Have the Croteau’s thought about leaving the church?

“No,” says Bunny Croteau.

“You’re convinced that a priest killed one of your sons. He sexually abused three others. The hierarchy of the church covered it up in a conspiracy. You’re convinced,” says Rather. “But you stick in. You stay in.”

“They can’t take God away from us,” says Bunny Croteau. “That’s the one thing they can’t have.”

Court documents reveal altar boy’s ordeal

Court documents reveal altar boy’s ordeal

By The Republican Newsroom  
on February 21, 2008 at 8:15 PM, updated February 21, 2008 at 8:32 PM

From the link:

File photo / The RepublicanCarl and Bernice Croteau stand in front of a portrait of their murdered son, Danny, in their Springfield home in this 2003 photo.

File photo / The RepublicanCarl and Bernice Croteau stand in front of a portrait of their murdered son, Danny, in their Springfield home in this 2003 photo.

SPRINGFIELD – About a week before Daniel Croteau’s lifeless body was recovered under a bridge in 1972, he returned home listless and nauseous from an overnight visit with his parish priest.

According to a statement his mother gave to police that year, the 13-year-old had left his house, smartly dressed, one night in April.

“He wore his knit shirt, tie, and herringbone jacket with a fur collar. He said that he was going to go someplace with Father Lavigne,” the statement by Bernice Croteau, taken on Aug. 7, 1972, reads. “That was the last we heard of him that evening until we received a call from Father (Richard) Lavigne, it was around 11:30 p.m. … and the father asked me if (Danny) could stay over that night.”

The statement was among 115 pages of documents released by the Hampden County district attorney’s office this week after a judge ordered the files unsealed. The documents include an overture to investigators from an astrologer, witness statements recounting dream visions and dying wishes, a jailhouse interview with a convicted priest from California, and wrenching accounts of Daniel Croteau’s allegedly volatile relationship with Lavigne.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini that the files be opened came in a civil dispute between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and its insurance carriers, which are resisting paying for settlements with victims of clergy abuse – many of whom say that Lavigne molested them.

The paperwork includes haunting images through witness statements spanning the 30 years since Croteau was killed and as law enforcement officials pursued a thus-far fruitless search for the boy’s killer.

The only suspect ever publicly identified was Lavigne, a now-defrocked priest, whom family members and friends said had a close and complicated relationship with Danny Croteau.

Lawyers for Lavigne have vehemently denied that their client was involved, even sending out a press release earlier this year entitled: “Richard Lavigne did not murder Daniel Croteau.”

The morning after Danny Croteau’s overnight stay with Lavigne in April 1972, Bernice “Bunny” Croteau told police, her son returned home, saying he felt ill.

“He didn’t say too much … he just laid around for a while and complained about his stomach … Towards evening he told me he had vomited several times,” the statement reads.

Several witnesses, including one who said he was Danny Croteau’s best friend, told police that Lavigne tried to ply them with liquor. He gave a statement in 1991, when Lavigne was under investigation for molesting boys in Franklin County.

“After the Mass, Father Lavigne would always offer us wine in the chalice … Father Lavigne would joke around a little and encourage us to drink the wine. I remember this because I didn’t like the wine, but Danny seemed to,” a witness, whose name was redacted from the statement, told police.

Investigators have said that Croteau’s alcohol blood level was .21, twice the legal limit, at the time of his death.

The witness also said that he and Croteau were altar boys for Lavigne at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Sixteen Acres.

“I found it strange that the other two priests never watched us change, but Father Lavigne always did,” the witness said. “In fact, he helped us by assisting us pull off the robes. … We thought Father Lavigne was a cool guy. He didn’t act like a priest. He acted like a playboy, very carefree and never serious outside the church.”

He added that he often spied Lavigne watching their street hockey games from a parked car.

“Danny would say, ‘I have to go,’ and he would run to the car crying with no further explanation. Danny told me that Father Lavigne was his uncle and that’s why I never thought any more about it. This would happen alot (sic) and Danny was with Father Lavigne alot (sic),” the statement reads.

Lavigne pleaded guilty in 1992 to two counts of molesting male parishioners. He was sentenced to 10 years’ probation; Lavigne was defrocked in 2005 after abuse accusations against him persisted and the diocese paid out millions to settle claims against him and other clerics.

The newly released documents show that many witnesses who claimed they had information about the Croteau killing came forward in the early 1990s. They included a woman whose recollections were memorialized in a spidery, handwritten statement in 1992.

She claims that Croteau appeared at her door in Chicopee one cold and windy night, shortly before he was killed.

“He was very polite and he asked me if he could use the phone to call father in Williamansette (sic). He refused a ride he said father would be right there,” said the witness, whose name also was blacked out in the documents. “I didn’t hear the conversation. It wasn’t long before he hung up then went outside. I turned the lights off then went to work.”

In the statement, dated Dec. 1, 1992, the witness said she told police of the encounter 30 years earlier, when she saw Croteau’s picture on the news after his body was found.

The teen was found face-down on the banks of the Chicopee River on April 15, 1972. He had been bludgeoned to death.

The records unsealed after Agostini’s order show Lavigne told certain people he was a suspect in the case, including a fellow priest who gave a statement to police in 1993.

“He was clearly looking for information about what was being said in Chicopee because we shared neighboring parishes,” the unnamed priest said of a flurry of telephone calls from Lavigne in the days following Croteau’s funeral. “(Another priest) also told me that he had a lot of communication with Father Lavigne during this whole time and that is what he agreed with me that (Lavigne) could be having a breakdown.”

Later in the same statement, the priest said, “(We) were confused as to whether or not Father Lavigne was involved in the murder because Father Lavigne had such conflict with members of the Springfield Police Department but we were both very uncertain, unclear and incapable of believing that any priest would be involved in a murder.”

Lawyers for Lavigne have repeatedly maintained that Lavigne passed the second of two lie detector tests administered by police; tire tracks at the scene did not match the tread on the tires of Lavigne’s Ford Mustang; DNA evidence found at the scene did not conclusively link Lavigne; and called into question the credibility and timing of certain witness statements.

Indeed, these records show overtures from the public included offers of help from an astrologer and statements from a woman who told police she resurrected images of Lavigne at the murder scene through hypnosis.

One individual told police in 2004 that she had spotted a boy in a yellow raincoat lying beneath the bridge where Croteau’s body was found.

“He was laying on his stomach with both arms bent over his head on the side. I could only see a left leg, which was bent. He looked like he was asleep. I saw a priest standing over him,” the woman told police of her reported sighting on April 12, 1972. “I remarked to my father that the kid must have fallen asleep and the priest was trying to wake him up. My father commented that if he was tired, the priest should have taken him home. I thought no more of it.”

The four-page statement recounts the witness’s encounters with the then-bishop, the Most Rev. Christopher J. Weldon, who is now dead, and then-District Attorney Matthew J. Ryan Jr.

She told police that Weldon threatened to excommunicate her father from the church. Ryan said there was no evidence to support her claim, according to her statement, and told her that he could arrest her for filing a false report if she pursued her claims.

The statement says it was her father’s dying wish that she remain quiet on what she has reported seeing. The final paragraph reads:

“That’s it. I’ll have to live with the guilt that I didn’t come forward sooner, but I was honoring a promise to my father.”

Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett, who fought the release of these files and others related to the Croteau case, was unavailable to discuss the documents today. However, a spokeswoman for him said he would answer questions during a press conference tomorrow.

Before the insurance companies sought the release of these records, The Republican fought a year-long court battle to open 2,000 pages of files related to the Croteau case.

Bernice Croteau’s statement to Chicopee police also details conversations she and her husband had with Lavigne on the night her son disappeared.

“At about 10:30 p.m. I spoke to Father Lavigne on the telephone. I don’t remember if I called him or if he had called me. I told him that (Danny) hadn’t arrived home, and asked if he had heard or had seen him and he said that he didn’t see him,” she told police on Aug. 7, 1972.

She also went to the home of her son’s scoutmaster to see if Danny was there, she said.

“I went home and when I arrived home, my husband told me that he received a call from Father Lavigne, that Father Lavigne asked if (Danny) had been found yet, and when my husband answered no, there was silence at the other end of the line.”

Croteau’s body was recovered the next morning, with a bloody stone, the apparent murder weapon, lying a few feet away.

Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski, who represents clergy abuse victims as well as Bernice and Carl E. Croteau, Danny’s parents, said the documents raise new questions about the altar boy’s death.

“There is a significant amount of circumstantial evidence in these statements, though I have yet to see a smoking gun,” Stobierski said. “I’m sure the question for the district attorney is: is there enough circumstantial evidence to gain a conviction.”

DANNY’S STORY | DEATH OF AN ALTAR BOY A priest, a boy, a mystery


A priest, a boy, a mystery

The nightmares are frequent and always end the same way: Bunny Croteau wakes up in a cold sweat, swinging clenched fists, crying for her son.

“Danny is yelling for help,” she says, staring out the window of her living room, “and I can’t get to him.”

Danny Croteau was 13 when they found his body, floating face down in the Chicopee River, a few miles from his Springfield home. That was 31 years ago. But for Bernice “Bunny” Croteau and her husband, Carl, the anger and frustration only grow as the years pass.

Living with the nagging sense that they didn’t do enough to protect their youngest son is bad enough. Knowing that the man they believe killed him is still out there, living in retirement only a few miles away, haunts them. Knowing that that man remains a priest, paid by their diocese, drives them crazy.

“The world’s upside down, and there is no justice,” Bunny says, looking over to her husband, who nods.

It is not only the Croteaus who believe that the Rev. Richard R. Lavigne, a convicted child molester, murdered their son in 1972, crushing his skull with a rock and dumping his body in the river. Just about every law enforcement official who worked on the case believes Lavigne did it.

To this day, the case remains open, and the priest is, as he has been for three decades, the only suspect, according to law enforcement sources.

“What really bothers me and Bunny is that whatever police we talk to, they say, `We know who it is,’ but they can’t charge him,” Carl says. While police and prosecutors long ago assembled a circumstantial case against Lavigne, the lack of physical evidence and of witnesses placing him with Danny the night of the murder have made authorities reluctant to charge him. DNA testing of blood found at the scene was inconclusive. Lavigne’s lawyer, Max Stern, is adamant that his client is innocent.

“He didn’t do it,” Stern says.

But while the question of who killed Danny Croteau is unanswered — and may never be answered — more certain is that the Diocese of Springfield knew Lavigne was a suspect, and knew of sexual abuse complaints against him, and yet allowed him access as a priest to children for 20 years after the murder.

During that time, according to police who have investigated him and the nearly 40 people who have filed lawsuits against him, Lavigne abused scores of children. In 1992 he was convicted of fondling two boys and sentenced to probation. In 1994 the diocese paid $1.4 million to settle claims brought by 17 people who said Lavigne abused them, and Lavigne now faces another 20 claims. The Massachusetts Sex Offenders Registry Board classified Lavigne as a Level 3 offender, meaning he is deemed a high risk to reoffend.

He remains, for many in heavily Catholic western Massachusetts, the living symbol of the clergy abuse crisis, much as John Geoghan was in Boston.

One difference: Lavigne is still a priest, though the Springfield Diocese removed him from active service in 1991 and earlier this year began the process of defrocking him. Another: Lavigne has never gone to jail.

More than a lack of physical evidence has kept Lavigne a free man. He has been the beneficiary of cultural attitudes that made many, including the Croteaus at first, refuse to believe a priest was capable of such abhorrent acts.

Law enforcement, especially in the early going, was likewise deferential. Prosecutors shrank from seeking warrants to search his family home and the parish rectory. Even after Lavigne pleaded guilty to the two abuse counts, the judge in the case declined to send him to jail, saying the charges were overblown.

Today, the murder case is still under active investigation, Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett says. A new series of DNA tests has been ordered.

And there is a corps of police officers who refuse to give up on trying to put Lavigne in jail, if not for Danny Croteau’s murder, then for sexual abuse. Lavigne is a suspect in an ongoing investigation into the sexual assault of a boy in the 1990s, according to people familiar with that investigation.

As police and prosecutors slowly proceed, Bunny and Carl Croteau are left to reflect on the tragedy that upended their family life forever but, remarkably, did not steal their faith.

Just 7 miles away from the Croteau home, Richard Lavigne lives on a quiet street in Chicopee, with his elderly mother, supported by a $1,030 monthly check from the diocese.

One recent afternoon, Lavigne was putting a fresh coat of white paint on the house. At 62, he is fit and trim, though friends say he has a heart condition. He told a Globe reporter he wanted to tell his side of the story but had been advised over the years not to.

“My silence,” he said, “has been my salvation.”

`He said he wanted to help us’ Carl and Bunny Croteau have been married for 51 years. They have lived in the same brick ranch house in the Sixteen Acres section of Springfield for 38 years. They raised seven children, five boys, then two girls. Danny was the youngest boy.

A painting of Danny, inspired by his seventh-grade school photograph, has hung in the same spot in the living room for 31 years. Wedged behind the framed portrait is a pair of withered palms from Palm Sunday last April. On the other side of the living room is a lamp Bunny made in the shape of Huckleberry Finn — the mischievous, adventurous character reminds her so much of her lost son.

His parents remember Danny as a bright, loquacious boy with freckles and strawberry blonde hair who loved to go fishing. He had a generous side. He used to help an elderly woman in the neighborhood, fetching her mail, raking her lawn, doing errands.

“She’d give him milk and cookies,” his mother says. “That’s all he wanted.”

Sometimes, when she longs to hear his voice, Bunny pulls out a small RCA boombox and pops in a cassette. It is a tape the family made, a few months before Danny was murdered. At one point Danny can be heard talking about a religious medal his mother had given him. Danny had already decided whom he would give the medal to.

“Father Lavigne will love the medal,” Danny said.

Five years earlier, after he was assigned to their parish, St. Catherine of Siena, Lavigne arrived on the Croteau doorstep.

“He just popped up here all of a sudden,” Bunny says. “We didn’t invite him. . . . He said he wanted to help us.”

Carl, who was often working two or three jobs at a time, says they were grateful for the help.

“He knew we had a big family,” Carl says. “Things were tough. I’d get laid off sometimes. Lavigne would raid the freezer at the rectory and bring us steak or a roast. He offered to look after the kids, to baby-sit them.”

All five of the Croteau boys served as altar boys at St. Catherine’s. Police say Lavigne worked to gain their trust. Sleepovers at the rectory became common for some of the boys. Lavigne also had some stay with him at his parents’ Chicopee home. One day, 14-year-old Joe Croteau came home hung over after a sleepover. Lavigne told Carl that Joe had gotten into his parents’ liquor cabinet without his knowing.

“Like a fool, I chastised Joe,” Carl says.

Lavigne was, from the start, a charismatic and controversial figure at St. Catherine’s and, later, at St. Mary’s, another local parish. He would roar at anyone who walked in late for Mass. He spoke out against the Vietnam War. In an area where military service was a proud tradition, his views made some parishoners uncomfortable.

But he flattered others with attention. It was a time and a place where having a priest come to dinner or take the children for sleepovers was a status symbol.

On Friday, April 14, 1972, the last day Danny was seen alive, he came home from school and helped his mother put a rug down. Sometime between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., she said, he went out to play. She never saw him again.

When Danny didn’t come home that night, his parents began calling around. Bunny called Lavigne, but he said he hadn’t seen Danny. As the hours passed, Bunny and Carl began to panic. At 2:11 a.m., they reported Danny missing to the police. At 8:25 a.m., a fisherman saw Danny’s body floating in the Chicopee River, under the Robinson Bridge, near the Springfield line. Inside the pocket of the boy’s suede jacket police found his blue school tie and a yellow exam paper.

Carl rushed home from work when he got the call. The police there told him he should go to the Chicopee police station. On the way, he stopped at the rectory to tell Lavigne.

“They found Danny murdered,” Carl blurted out, trying to control his emotions.

Lavigne betrayed none of his own, according to Carl. “Do you want me to come along?” the priest asked. Carl was glad for the company.

The Chicopee police station was buzzing. Carl met the detectives who would hunt his son’s killer. After police told Carl that Danny had been taken to a nearby funeral home, Lavigne offered to identify the body. Carl thanked Lavigne, relieved he didn’t have to face that horror himself.

Suspicions raised The day after Danny’s body was found, Chicopee Police Lieutenant Edmund Radwanski was out studying the crime scene when he noticed Lavigne, walking along the riverbank. He arranged to interview the priest the next day.

In his official report on their conversation, Radwanski noted that Lavigne asked him two questions that he and other investigators considered strange — and possibly incriminating.

“If a stone was used and thrown in the river, would the blood still be on it?” Lavigne asked, according to the report.

How could the priest have known to ask, investigators wondered. There had been, to that point, no public disclosure about how Danny had been killed. It would be several weeks, in fact, before police told the Croteaus that, based on the wounds, they believed Danny had been killed by a left-handed assailant wielding a stone. Lavigne is left-handed.

Lavigne also stirred Radwanski’s suspicions when he asked about the tire-track prints taken by police at the scene.

“In such a popular hangout with so many cars and footprints,” the priest wondered, “how can the prints you have be of any help?”

The priest, in his session with Radwanski, also gave the first of several inconsistent statements about his relationship with Danny.

Lavigne told Radwanski that whenever he took Danny anywhere, it had always been “with his brothers or a gang of kids.” Within days of the murder, however, police learned from the Croteaus that Lavigne, in fact, had regularly been alone with Danny.

A Chicopee woman who lived near Lavigne’s parents’ home told police that on April 7, a week before he disappeared, Danny had appeared at her door at 10:30 p.m., saying he was lost and asking to use her phone to call Father Lavigne. Five minutes later, a maroon Ford Mustang like the one driven by Lavigne pulled up and picked Danny up. When questioned about the woman’s account, Lavigne admitted to Radwanski that he had picked up Danny and taken him, alone, to his parents’ house in the Aldenville section of Chicopee, where Danny spent the night.

Bunny Croteau told police that Danny had arrived home on the morning of April 8, said he felt ill, and later threw up repeatedly. Police believe Danny had been given alcohol by Lavigne the night before, but when questioned after the murder, Lavigne denied it. The priest did, however, acknowledge that Danny might have gotten into his parents’ liquor cabinet.

Autopsy tests showed that Danny was drunk when he was killed. His father said police told him his son’s blood alcohol content was nearly double the level that would have rendered him legally intoxicated. Police say Lavigne’s pattern was to ply boys with alcohol before abusing them.

Bunny’s sister Betty flew in from California for the funeral. Lavigne greeted her at the Croteau home. He told her that he had identified the body, and that it was important to convince Carl and Bunny to keep the casket closed for the wake. Danny’s face was mangled, Lavigne told Betty, and his mother shouldn’t see him that way. Betty did as instructed by the priest.

After the funeral, State Police Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon, the lead investigator on the case, came by the house to offer his sympathies and pose some questions. He asked the Croteaus why they kept the casket closed. When they explained, the veteran officer shook his head. Danny’s face wasn’t disfigured at all. The wounds were to the back of his head.

The family was baffled by Lavigne’s behavior at the time, but now they have a theory.

“I think Lavigne couldn’t bear to look at Danny’s face again,” Carl Croteau says.

Fitzgibbon then talked to each of Danny’s brothers separately in one of the bedrooms, while Carl and Bunny waited in the living room. Then he told the couple what he had learned: Their sons said Lavigne had sexually abused some of them. At first, Carl and Bunny couldn’t believe it. To this day, they say, they haven’t had a heart-to-heart with any of their sons about Lavigne. It is a subject the family just can’t talk about.

“Our boys blame themselves for Danny’s death,” Carl says. “It haunts them. It haunts us.”

In 1996 Joseph Croteau settled a lawsuit against the diocese for the sexual abuse he says he suffered at the hands of Richard Lavigne.

The investigation If Danny’s rakish ways reminded his parents of Huck Finn, Jim Mitchell, a now retired state trooper who helped investigate the murder, remembers thinking of the 13-year-old as a boy trying to grow up too fast.

“He would hitchhike around regularly,” Mitchell says.

And he made some questionable friends.

“There was a produce manager at a nearby supermarket,” Mitchell says, “and Danny went to his house and painted his bedroom.”

Mitchell says both the produce manager and another man who led the Boy Scout troop to which Danny belonged were questioned after the murder. But Mitchell says neither “rose to the level” of suspicion that Lavigne did, and that after their alibis checked out, they were ruled out as suspects.

As police worked the case, they asked the Croteaus to alert them if they noticed anyone acting strangely at Danny’s wake.

There was one such person: a Franciscan priest, in brown robe and sandals, who wept loudly as he stood in front of the casket.

“It was just so odd, because we didn’t know this priest, and no one else seemed to know him,” Bunny says.

Mitchell looked at the condolence book and found the name Father Barnabas, whom he traced to the St. Francis of Assisi Center in downtown Springfield. When Mitchell met Father Barnabas Keck at his chapel office, he noticed that the only thing tacked to a cork bulletin board behind the priest was a newspaper story about Danny’s murder.

“Why did you go to the wake, Father?” Mitchell remembers asking. “Do you know the family?”

No, the priest replied.

“Do you always go to the wakes of people you don’t know?” Mitchell asked.

No, the priest replied. But the murder of the boy moved him so deeply he felt he should pay his respects.

Mitchell returned to his office and pulled aside his boss, Fitzgibbon.

“Fitzy,” he said, “there’s something very peculiar over there.”

A few weeks later a high school student contacted State Police, saying he wanted to give a statement about what happened to him when he stayed overnight at St. Mary’s rectory with Father Lavigne. The boy told Mitchell that Lavigne gave him alcohol and fondled him. After one of the sleepovers, the boy said, Lavigne took him to the St. Francis Center, saying they needed to go to confession.

Mitchell and Fitzgibbon believed that Father Barnabas was Lavigne’s confessor. But because Massachusetts law protects priest-penitent confidentiality, they couldn’t make him talk about it.

Reached in New Paltz, N.Y., where he is serving as a priest, the 79-year-old Keck said no one has ever confessed to him about the murder of Danny Croteau. Keck said that many Springfield priests used the St. Francis chapel for confession, but that he never saw the faces of the penitents.

“I knew of Father Lavigne, but I never met him face to face,” Keck said. “I wouldn’t have recognized him.”

In the immediate aftermath of Danny’s murder, Carl and Bunny could not comprehend what had happened to Danny, and couldn’t countenance the idea that Lavigne had played a role.

But Lavigne was soon aware of what police suspected. Within days of presiding over Danny’s funeral, Lavigne called Bunny.

“Under the circumstances,” he told her, “I think it’s best that I don’t come around for now.”

They never spoke again.

Later, as her suspicions grew, Bunny tore around the house like a tornado, looking for photos of her sons with Lavigne, ripping them up.

“I didn’t want any reminders of him,” she says.

Lavigne told the Globe he had considered communicating with the family but never did. He doesn’t think he could talk to Carl Croteau.

“He’s so bitter,” Lavigne said.

Priest seemed `untouchable’ Carl Croteau says Fitzgibbon, who died in 1982, told him “a lot of mistakes were made” in the early days of the murder probe. One was the failure of police and the district attorney’s office to push harder to search St. Mary’s rectory, and to examine the clothes the priest wore the night of Danny’s death.

“The police went there, but the priest who answered the door wouldn’t let them in,” Carl says Fitzgibbon told him.

Mitchell says police didn’t have enough evidence to get a warrant. But other officers suggest Lavigne’s conflicting statements about Danny and his odd remarks at the crime scene might have met the probable cause threshold — but not for a search of a church rectory, in Springfield, in 1972.

Bishop Christopher J. Weldon, then head of the Springfield diocese, and Matthew J. Ryan Jr., then district attorney, were well known to be good friends. The Croteaus and others believe that friendship made Ryan less aggressive in pursuing the case.

In an interview, Ryan, now retired, denied he went easy on Lavigne. Ryan said that he, too, believes Lavigne was the killer, but that he did not have the evidence to seek an indictment for the murder or for Lavigne’s sexual abuses.

“What you think and what you can prove in court are two different things,” Ryan said.

Carl Croteau says he clashed with Ryan, asking why the district attorney wouldn’t at least go after Lavigne for molestation. He says Ryan told him it would have endangered the murder investigation to do so.

Ryan told the Globe he didn’t prosecute Lavigne for abuse because none of the victims would come forward.

There is evidence that some victims of Lavigne remained silent out of fear of Lavigne. In a series of interviews, several men said they were, as boys, abused by Lavigne but kept quiet because the priest seemed untouchable.

“Everyone around here knew that the police thought Lavigne killed Danny Croteau,” said Stephen Block, who says Lavigne began sexually abusing him shortly after the murder. “After I saw that nothing happened to Lavigne, there was no way I was going to come forward.”

Block has since sued the diocese.

Ryan’s reluctance to prosecute Lavigne for sexual abuse hit close to home. Ten years ago, two of his nephews came forward to say Lavigne had molested them.

The diocese’s role

The Springfield Diocese says the first complaint it received about Lavigne came in 1986. But Mitchell, the retired State Police officer, said that shortly after the murder, Fitzgibbon briefed diocesan officials on what police had learned about Lavigne’s molesting some of the Croteau boys and others.

“We had an obligation to show our cards,” Mitchell says. “Fitzy had a sit-down with them. Everything we knew, we told them.”

As the diocese contests nearly two dozen pending claims against Lavigne, what its officials knew and when they knew it remains a point of enormous contention. But the diocese’s own records suggest it had been informed by police that Lavigne was a suspect in the murder case. Within three weeks of the murder, on May 4, 1972, diocesan lawyers arranged for Lavigne to take a polygraph. According to an account of the examination, which is included in the portion of Lavigne’s personnel records that has been turned over to John J. Stobierski, a Greenfield attorney representing alleged Lavigne victims, he was asked five questions:

Did you strike Danny Croteau’s head to cause his death?

Did you kill Danny Croteau?

Were you present when Danny Croteau was killed?

Did you dump Danny Croteau’s body in the Chicopee River?

Do you know who killed Danny Croteau?

Lavigne answered no to all five questions, but the examiner said, “Due to these erratic and inconsistent responses on this subject’s polygraph records, the examiner is unable to render a definite opinion as to the subject’s truthfulness.”

The diocese then arranged for Lavigne to travel to Chicago, where on May 9, 1972, he passed a pair of polygraph exams asking the same questions, the released records show. From that point on, diocesan lawyers pointed to the polygraph tests as proof that Lavigne did not kill Danny Croteau. The diocese allowed Lavigne to remain in parish work, with no restrictions.

After Lavigne was charged in 1991 with sexually assaulting five boys, Bennett, who had succeeded Ryan, reopened the murder probe. With Lavigne’s image of invincibility shattered, more people came forward.

One of the new witnesses was Carl Croteau Jr., who recalled that on the day before his brother’s funeral, he answered the telephone at his family’s home. A male voice said: “We’re very sorry what happened to Danny. He saw something behind `The Circle’ he shouldn’t have seen. It was an accident.”

Whoever called would not identify himself, but Carl Croteau Jr. told police he is certain the caller was Lavigne. Investigators believe Lavigne was trying to throw them off his scent. “The Circle” referred to by the caller was a notorious teen hangout behind the Sixteen Acres library.An odd encounter And just last year, Sandra Tessier, one of Lavigne’s former parishioners at St. Mary’s, gave police a statement about an odd encounter with Lavigne.

Within weeks of the murder, Tessier was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a phone call. It was Lavigne. He asked to meet her at a nearby all-night diner. Still half asleep, Tessier got dressed and drove over. She says the conversation went like this:

“I want to prove to you that I didn’t murder Danny Croteau,” Lavigne told her as soon as she arrived.

“Father, why would I think that?” Tessier replied.

Lavigne steered her toward a man who, while in plain clothes, flashed a badge and said he was a police officer. The man told Tessier that Lavigne had nothing to do with the murder.

“See,” Lavigne said, turning to Tessier. “I told you I didn’t do it.’

“I kept saying, `I never thought you did do it.’ But as time went on, I kept thinking, `Doth protest too much,’ ” Tessier recalled in an interview.

While police have not been able to place Lavigne at the murder scene the night Danny was killed, they have evidence that Lavigne was familiar with the spot. Joe Croteau told police that sometime in 1971, Lavigne took him fishing there.

The crime scene proved a challenge to investigators trying to find physical evidence that could help them find the killer. The place where Danny’s body was found was a fishing hole by day and something of a lovers’ lane at night.

Police combed the site and submitted some objects for forensic testing, which revealed two types of blood: Type O, which was Danny’s type, and Type B, which is the type of about 9 percent of the population, including Richard Lavigne. But DNA testing, which can link blood samples to particular individuals, had not been developed back then. After the case was reopened in 1991, a piece of rope and a plastic straw with traces of Type B blood on them were submitted for DNA testing. The forensic scientist who conducted the tests said that the blood on the straw was not Lavigne’s, but that he could not rule out that the blood on the rope might be. Lavigne’s lawyers say the testing is proof Lavigne is innocent. Prosecutors call it inconclusive. Bennett said his office has commissioned a new round of DNA testing.Unless the new results conclusively link the blood to Lavigne, it is unlikely he will ever face murder charges, according to police who have worked on the case. Bennett, in an interview, says that to seek an indictment prosecutors must believe a suspect is guilty, and have sufficient credible evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While Bennett would not say so, other law enforcement sources say prosecutors don’t feel their case clears the “reasonable doubt” hurdle.

Carl Croteau says Bennett has told him he could probably get an indictment, but not a conviction. But Croteau believes the evidence would sway a jury.

“If he was acquitted, we could live with that,” he says. “But why not take a shot? I think we owe that much to Danny.”

And to the others who trace the fracturing of their lives to Lavigne. Peter Bessone and his cousin, David Bessone, were among them. They were like brothers. They played together. They went to school together. And one day they vowed to keep a secret together: Both said their parish priest, Father Lavigne, was molesting them. Peter was 8. David was 9.

As the boys grew up, Peter sank into a haze of drug and alcohol abuse. David left the state and went to college.

At Christmas time in 1985, David called Peter to beg him to get off drugs. Then David hung up the phone, lit a Hibachi grill in his apartment, lay down, and let the fumes fill his lungs. He was 23.

A few weeks ago, Peter Bessone watched as a priest, the Rev. James J. Scahill, knelt at David’s grave at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Springfield, to say a prayer.

“The ground was soaking wet, but Father Scahill knelt down anyway,” Peter said.

Peter knelt, too, and then collapsed into the priest’s arms and wept.

Scahill has become a confidante and spiritual counselor to Bessone and others allegedly abused by Lavigne. Scahill has also become the accusing finger pointed at his own bishop and diocese. For more than a year, Scahill has refused to give the diocese its traditional 6 percent cut of the weekly collection from the parish — Springfield’s most affluent — to protest Bishop Thomas L. Dupre’s continued financial support of Lavigne.

Scahill says the diocese has been aware of Lavigne’s predatory ways since at least 1972, when Lavigne became the prime suspect in Danny Croteau’s murder.

“I think Lavigne has gotten away with murder for more than 30 years,” said Scahill, sitting in the living room of St. Michael’s rectory in East Longmeadow. “But the people who have enabled him are worse than him.”

In 1988, Scahill was posted to St. Mary’s, where Lavigne served in the 1970s. After Lavigne’s arrest in 1991, some people came forward to say Lavigne had molested them, too. Over the years, Scahill counseled a half-dozen of Lavigne’s victims.

Some became outright suicides, like David Bessone. But there are others whose downward spiral was gradual.

“They kill themselves by inches,” Scahill says, as he steers his creaky 1988 Buick through the streets of Springfield, glancing at Peter Bessone, who sits glumly in the passenger seat.

Scahill got to know Peter 11 years ago, when Bessone’s father was dying of cancer. Scahill visited the father in the hospital, but the son wanted no part of a priest. At each visit, Scahill put out his hand. Peter would just scowl.

“For a month, I ignored his hand,” Peter says. “At my dad’s funeral, Father Scahill came up to me and said, `I’m here if you need me.’ I don’t know why, but I shook his hand. I remember whenever Father Lavigne was molesting me, his hands were cold. Father Scahill’s hand was warm.”

Bessone, 40, is in the advanced stages of leukemia. He says he does not know how long he has to live, but he hopes to live long enough to see Lavigne defrocked.

Dupre declined to be interviewed. But on the diocese’s website, he defends the support of Lavigne: “Our obligations continue even to those who have grievously sinned and caused enormous harm. Those teachings of forgiveness and charity are core values of a Catholic Christian belief, and I cannot deviate from them even though it would be the popular thing to do.”

`It’s ruined the family’ Despite all they have gone through, Carl and Bunny Croteau cling fiercely to their Catholic faith. Each day, Carl goes to St. Catherine’s to attend Mass. Some days, he acts as an altar server, assisting the priest as Danny once did. Other days, he serves as a eucharistic minister, handing out Communion, as Lavigne once did. Carl Croteau believes firmly that if Lavigne escapes justice in this world, he will face it in another.

Hillcrest Park Cemetery is just a mile from the Croteau home. It is a peaceful place, with towering trees and a picturesque pond. Carl goes often, to visit his youngest son’s grave.

He points to the empty plot to the left of Danny’s grave.

“Bun and I will be next to him,” he says, then bends down to touch the ground.

“It’s ruined the family,” he says, almost in a whisper. “We have kids we can’t talk to about it. It never leaves you. You never have that peace.”

Back at the house, Bunny Croteau sits in the corner of her living room, knitting. She has little and wants less. She has her faith, her nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, a few photos, a tape of Danny’s voice, and the nightmares.

“The last time I had the nightmare with Lavigne in it,” she says, softly, the afternoon light fading so that Danny’s portrait on the opposite wall is bathed in shadow, “I was swinging at him, hitting him with everything I had. But then I woke up, and there was nothing there. I was crying. I was calling out for Danny. And there was nothing there. Nothing.”

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

South America has become a safe haven for the Catholic Church’s alleged child molesters. The Vatican has no comment.

South America has become a safe haven for the Catholic Church’s alleged child molesters. The Vatican has no comment.

The Shadow Behind ‘Spotlight’: How Predator Priests Derailed Boston’s Would-Be Pope, Cardinal Bernard Law

The Shadow Behind ‘Spotlight’: How Predator Priests Derailed Boston’s Would-Be Pope, Cardinal Bernard Law

Sins of the Father

10.26.151:03 AM ET
Cardinal Bernard Law

Cardinal Bernard Law

The shadow villain of Spotlight, Bernard Law was one of America’s most ambitious and prominent cardinals—until his handling of the sex-abuse scandal caught up with him.

Spotlight is a gripping new film by Tom McCarthy on The Boston Globe’s investigation of how that archdiocese concealed child-molester priests. Set in 2001, the film serves as backstory to the Pulitzer Prize-winning series that began on Jan. 6, 2002—“Feast of the Epiphany,” as we learn in the intelligent script by McCarthy and Josh Singer.

Taking on the church in heavily Catholic Boston was no small order. Several of the reporters came from Catholic homes. Marty Baron, the Globe’s new editor, by way of The Miami Herald, suggested the investigation after reading a Globe columnist on a priest abuse case. Baron wanted to know more; he later became editor of The Washington Post.

Played by the bearded Liev Schreiber, Baron presents as a shy man, of few but forceful words, an outsider to tribal Boston, and a Jew, as a Catholic businessman says, sotto voce, to Michael Keaton in his edgy, pensive portrayal of Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson.

Robinson’s clutch of reporters worked months before the first article appeared, finding documents and tracking down victims of some 30 priests. The turning point in 2001 came when a court ruling against the church unsealed lawsuits that put clergy personnel documents into the public record. The Globe ultimately reported that the archdiocese had sheltered 249 predatory clerics going back several decades.

The Globe unmasked Cardinal Bernard Law, then Boston’s Archbishop, for shielding predators; he made Newsweek’s cover in March 2002. Spotlight ends two months before that, just as the newspaper series begins. A line onscreen at the end of the film says that Law resigned as archbishop in December 2002, and later became pastor in Rome of a historic basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore (note to reader: at a salary of $12,000 a month, according to The New York Times).

Law left Boston a figure of ridicule and disgrace, yet still a Prince of the Church, as cardinals are called. He has never given an interview in the 13 years since then. In researching a 2011 book on Vatican finances, and more recent reporting trips to Rome, I pieced together a picture of the cardinal in winter (he turns 84 next month) as he rebuilt a power base. His story echoes the wisdom of Heraclitus: character is fate.

The Globe series ignited a chain reaction of reports at the networks and daily newsrooms, not least at The New York Times, which owned the Globe then and competed hard on investigations of its own. For the church, the earthquake convulsed well into 2004; the impact continued on for years, as dioceses and religious orders settled thousands of victim lawsuits.

Early into Spotlight, Baron pays a courtesy call on Cardinal Law, played by a silver-haired Len Cariou with a suave patrician gravitas, saying that as a young monsignor in Mississippi in the 1960s, “I was close to the Evers brothers,” and that he wrote for the Jackson diocesan paper. In a dash of hubris the cardinal suggests common cause in a healthy press, and then gives editor Baron a copy of the thick Catholic Catechism. Schrieber’s facial twist registers irony as he takes the book, knowing that news will come of rules long broken by the church.

I let out an audible mmmm at that moment in the screening; my wife whispered, “Is something wrong?” I shook my head, no, thinking of Law: All that promise…

Globe reporters interviewed me in late 2001 and several times in 2002 because of a work I published in 1992—Lead Us Not Into Temptation, the first book to investigate the nationwide crisis of priest sex abuse. (The book actually has a cameo in the film; a survivor activist shows his copy to Spotlight reporters with other material he urges them to read.) The Globe reviewed the book favorably in 1992 during heavy national coverage of an ex-priest, James Porter, who left a trail of agony in Massachusetts towns going back many years, before taking a plea bargain and 20-year sentence for child sexual abuse. He died in prison six years later.

Cardinal Law was irate over the Porter coverage, blustering at one point, “We call down God’s power on the media, especially the Globe.”

The book took seven years, with endless photocopying and FedEx bills—this was pre-Internet—to obtain legal documents on far-flung bishops shielding sex offenders. But I was unable to get documents from New York, Boston, and Los Angeles: Church lawyers had a tight lid on cases. Other attorneys assumed that the victims took settlements in exchange for silence. Nine years later, Boston survivors came forth, with wrenching personal stories, after Judge Constance Sweeney, a Catholic, ruled that press freedom trumped church secrecy, unsealing lawsuits and giving victims the right to speak. The scene is a key moment in Spotlight.

Cardinal Law, the reporters’ ultimate target, is not a major character in the film; Baron tells his reporters to go after “the system,” not the man, though it goes unspoken that Law was the system.

I met Bernie Law, as priests in Mississippi called him, in Jackson, the state capitol, in the summer of 1971 while working as press secretary in Charles Evers’s quixotic campaign for governor. A week after graduation from Georgetown, I arrived as a volunteer, wrote a press release when they needed one, and got hired for $75 a week.

Law was vicar-general, the bishop’s top assistant. Evers, whose brother Medgar had been assassinated in 1963, respected Law for his editorials in the Catholic paper urging tolerance during the violent years. In a heavily Baptist state prone to racial demagogues, Law had been on the right side of history. By 1971 the riots and Klan violence had abated; but tensions were palpable, race relations still raw. I was curious about Law, and when I called, the monsignor invited me to dinner. When I parked my dented VW in the chancery parking lot, he said, “Let’s take my car.” It was larger and more comfortable.

He was 40, plump but energetic, a Harvard graduate with early silver hair, a cool mind and warm wit. I liked him immediately. He sang praises of the Italian restaurant where he had a reservation.

The owner gave him a lavish hello, and scowled at me. “Sorry, Monsignor, we can’t take him—the hair is too long.” Law frowned. I blushed. The hair stopped just shy of my shoulders, but this was Mississippi and the guy didn’t like suspected hippies. Law protested, without yelling, to no avail. I knew it wasn’t a moment to stand on constitutional rights and expect to eat lasagna.

Law was mortified as he drove to another restaurant, telling me somberly that backwards Mississippi really had made important strides. At dinner he brightened; we talked national politics, theology, and church changes since Vatican II.

As we left the restaurant, Law said: “How’d you like to meet the bishop?”

Sure. Joseph Brunini, the bishop of Jackson, came from a family with a prominent law firm; he too had been a voice of moderation in the dark years. The bishop, 52, had a condo outside Jackson at the vast Ross Barnett Reservoir where people with sailboats had slips.

Barnett was the former governor known for inflammatory speeches and standing in the doorway at the University of Mississippi in 1962 to block James Meredith as the first black student. Meredith was escorted in by white federal marshals. “Which of you is James Meredith?” said Barnett to the only black man in eyesight. The campus soon exploded in a riot that left two people dead as federal troops secured Meredith’s place. The state named the big lake for the worst governor Mississippi ever had.

We sat on the deck of the condo, sipping Scotch as the insects sang outside. Brunini was an amiable man, a Georgetown graduate curious about my time there, the three of us trading thoughts about race relations and the church. I realized that Mississippi’s Catholic community amounted to a minority religion, a tiny social presence, quite different from the New Orleans of my upbringing. Brunini wished me well and made a point of blessing me as we left.

As Law and I drove back to the chancery, his demeanor changed. He was smiling, a man on a cloud. “Did you like the bishop?” he said. Yes, a very nice man. “Did you think he was—cool?” Uh, sure.

This man wants to be a bishop, I reported to myself with the brilliance of a 22-year old. As we pulled up to my car, he stuck out his hand. “Call me Bernie.”

Campaign work intensified; he made a trip to Rome and I didn’t see him again; we chatted a few times by phone.

As the years passed I followed news on him. He became a bishop in Missouri, and several years later, in 1984, vaulted to Boston, as archbishop, and soon a cardinal. I’ve known journalists to fume over people they wished they’d kept up with. I soon felt that about Law, wishing I’d sent notes, Christmas cards, anything to cultivate a relationship. The regret hit me in the mid-’80s as I reported on the prosecution of a pedophile priest in Lafayette, Louisiana. In a circuitous way, those events led to Law.

In January of 1986, the weekly Times of Acadiana ran my final piece, reconstructing how Bishop Gerard Frey had played musical chairs with seven priests who had abused children over several years. The paper ran an editorial calling for the Vatican to remove the bishop, for which it got hit with an advertisers’ boycott fomented by a retired judge, Edmund Reggie, and a prominent monsignor. The paper lost $20,000 before cooler heads prevailed. In July, the Vatican sent a new bishop.

In February of that year I shifted to work on the book, and flew to Washington, D.C., to interview Father Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer at the Vatican Embassy. Doyle, I learned, sent a shot across the bow as co-author of a 100-page report in the spring of 1985 on the pedophile cases before it became a crisis. The document went to every bishop in America. A classic whistleblower, Doyle lost his job; he became an Air Force chaplain.

Doyle told me how he had given Cardinal Law a briefing on abuse cases in various states in 1984 before his work on the report. Law supported Doyle in the effort; he even contributed $1,000 to cover photocopy costs so the document could be sent to 150 bishops. Many years later, Law testified in a deposition in one of the Boston cases and said he could not recall details of that 1985 report, which became a “smoking gun” for advising bishops to remove predators and reach out to victims. Many bishops opted to recycle perpetrators after stints in psychiatric treatment facilities, and ignore victims until they filed lawsuits.

The next time I saw Law was 1993 in New Orleans where the bishops held their summer conference. Activists with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests were staging a protest. Law stepped off an elevator at the Hyatt Regency and nearly collided with me. “Your Eminence, it’s been a long time since Mississippi. Would you have time to talk?”

He shook his head grimly and moved on. I noticed he was much heavier.

In 1998, the artist Channing Thieme was preparing an exhibition called “Boston Faces,” portraits of a cross-section of Bostonians. She was not a Catholic, curious about a man as powerful as Law, and delighted when he agreed to sit for her at the cardinal’s mansion in Brighton. She found him a charming conversationalist in two drawing sessions. When she returned with the finished graphite portrait, Law was delighted. She said: “What’s the toughest part of your job?”

“Judgment—the decisions I must make,” Law replied. And, as if looking ahead to a bitter reckoning, he added: “That is the half of it. The other half is the judgment I must one day face myself.”

She was amazed at the statement. The words do not ring of false modesty.

Law in 1998 was the most powerful American churchman in Rome. Close to Pope John Paul and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State, Law cultivated ties in the Roman Curia and served on major Vatican committees. Yet that artist’s question, as he gazed at his black-and-white image, seemingly unloosed an inner coil. He apparently felt guilty about something. Could it have been the scores of pedophiles he had sent to treatment tanks, some of them recycled, with little thought of their ravaged victims?

Power is the movement of money. The out-of-court settlements Law had approved, predicated on victims’ silence, put the survivors out of sight, out of mind.

Judgment stalked him in civil depositions as the media coverage wore on; reporters used his testimony to shatter the credibility of the man who had urged John Paul II to authorize the updated, very long Catholic Catechism, the one that the cardinal in the movie gives to the editor with his quiet, quizzical face.

Law resigned just before Christmas 2002, after a private meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome; he left Boston for sanctuary in a Maryland convent with nuns. Imagine the psychological blow to a man who had once told friends that he hoped to be the first American pope, a man whose support of migrants from the Dominican Republic entering Boston stood for the values of a church giving comfort and succor to the poor.

Nixon sought redemption after Watergate by writing books and holding dinners for selected journalists, a careful campaign to rehabilitate himself as a foreign policy sage.

Law turned to the one place where he had support—cardinals and bishops in the Roman Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy. “The curia is a brotherhood,” Cardinal Sodano once told The New York Times. Law had friends in the brotherhood after 17 years in Boston. A member of the Congregation for Bishops, he helped select new American bishops.

The news of Law’s new job in Rome in the spring of 2004 came at the worst possible time for his successor, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Seán O’Malley. O’Malley had approved an $85 million settlement to 542 victims, only to take public criticism for a wave of church closures, consolidating parishes in a controversial plan to sell property after the huge deficit Law had left. O’Malley had already sold the cardinal’s mansion for $108 million to Boston College. All that, and John Paul rewarded Law with a cushy perch at one of Rome’s great basilicas.

“Many people in Rome would say that he paid the price in the form of his resignation and that there’s no reason that he shouldn’t make a contribution,” Vatican correspondent John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter told Boston Magazine two years after Law assumed his position. (Allen now writes for Crux, an online branch of the Globe that covers the Catholic Church.)

After many years away from Mississippi, I went to Jackson in 2004 to promote a book, written with Gerald Renner. Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II explores the Vatican’s role in the abuse crisis. Before the evening lecture, I did several media interviews, and spent time with SNAP leaders Johnny Rainer and Kenneth Morrison.

Morrison was 39, an artist in Chicago who had grown up in Jackson. He was one of three sons of a physician, by then deceased. His mother came to the book event. The family had moved to Jackson from Boston in 1969 when Kenneth’s dad, Dr. Francis Morrison, an oncologist, took a teaching position at the state medical school. As Boston Catholics, the Morrisons found a friend in Bernie Law, the Harvard graduate. The Morrisons also befriended Father George Broussard who, as pedophiles will do, ingratiated himself with the family, slowly molesting the three young boys.

As we drove around Jackson that day, Kenneth, a strapping guy who did industrial art projects in Chicago, pointed to several church buildings where, he said, Broussard had forced sex on him as a boy of 5, 6, and 7 years old—“there, in that one, and that one, and that one.” As we drove past the chancery, his memories of being abused spilled into my thought field from 1971. The summer evening I pulled into the chancery parking lot to meet Bernie Law, matched the time period when little Kenneth was being preyed upon by Father Broussard nearby.

Morrison sued the Jackson diocese in 2003. The diocese faced lawsuits against seven other priests, several dating back to Law’s tenure there.

Law was the bishop’s right hand when Dr. Morrison reported what Broussard had done to the chancery. As Morrison would later allege, Broussard began receiving “treatment,” while staying at another parish. Law was close to the Morrisons, and to Broussard. Knowing what he knew, what should Law have done?

“The sexual molestation of minors wasn’t even on my radar screen,” Law testified in a deposition in the Morrison case. “It wasn’t the issue that it is today… it didn’t come up.”

But the diocese did investigate, as William Houck, who succeeded Brunini as bishop, stated under oath: “Broussard said he subsequently admitted the accusations to Bernard Law and to Bishop (Joseph) Brunini, and attended confession with Bernard Law.”

Law had moved to Rome when the Jackson diocese agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Kenneth Morrison.

In late 2012, I spent five weeks in Rome for GlobalPost, reporting on the Vatican investigation of liberal American nuns—the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Cardinal Law was a catalyst in sparking that investigation, as I reported, though he played no direct role in the interrogations, meetings, and correspondence that the sisters had with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The C.D.F. is housed in the majestic palazzo where in 1616 the Inquisition punished Galileo for his position that the Earth revolves around the sun.

After leaving Boston in humiliation, Law found a fraternal womb in the Curia; but after the blows to his stature and ego, he wanted other people to “face judgment”—an outsized projection of his own faults in the desire to bring those liberal nuns to heel. The man who suggested the new catechism wanted obedience to authority, of which he himself had little.

Levada, it is worth adding, had been archbishop of San Francisco, and up to his chest in litigation over pedophile priests, when the newly elected Pope Benedict tossed him a ladder in 2005 as if from a celestial helicopter, lifting him up and away from the muck in the City by the Bay to beautiful Rome and great status as theologian-in-chief.

Levada refused to be interviewed. I called Law, hoping against hope that he might agree to talk. A priest took the call at Santa Maria Maggiore, let his cold silence register for a number of seconds, and stated: “The cardinal does not give interviews. There are no exceptions.”

Pope Francis would later oversee the termination of the proceedings against the nuns, and make a point of meeting with several of the leaders of American sisters for a reconciliation with news photographers present.

“Law is a presence on the embassy social circuit,” a Western diplomat in Rome told me in 2012. “He’s a cardinal, an official of the Curia, so he’s on the invitation lists. He’s sociable and mingles easily.”

The Holy See assumes a decorum among journalists who cover the Vatican. Many reporters who work in the press room off St. Peter’s Square have broken stories critical of church officialdom—Nicole Winfield of AP and Philip Pullella of Reuters prominent among them; but you don’t see journalists in packs ambushing church officials as if they were Chicago or Louisiana politicians heading into criminal court. Pope Benedict was reeling from the Vati-Leaks scandal in late 2012 when I attended a reception for a group of newly invested cardinals.

It was a rare chance to get inside the Apostolic Palace, which is closed to the public save for ceremonial occasions. The large reception parlors have elegant tapestries adorning the walls. The papal apartments and pope’s office on the top floor were off-limits. In one parlor a sizeable crowd of people who had come from Nigeria waited in a receiving line to greet their new cardinal, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja. Many of the Nigerian women wept as they hugged him. The rich colors of Yoruba design on the dresses and dashikis of men were emblazoned with the new cardinal’s photograph. The vibrant festivity of the multicultural pageant in the life of the church reminded me of The Canterbury Tales.

Across the crowded Rome I saw the bloated, hulking figure of Cardinal Law, flanked by two priests, make his way past a receiving line toward two Italians in the red hat of cardinals. I moved that way, camera in hand. A priest at Law’s elbow saw me and glared, stationing himself closer to the cardinal to prevent a clear angle. I stood there for several minutes, without shooting, and then turned away, thinking of Kenneth Morrison.

A frequent Daily Beast contributor, Jason Berry’s books include Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, and Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II.


The pope promises accountability to victims abused by the church. Where is Cardinal Law?

The pope promises accountability to victims abused by the church. Where is Cardinal Law?


2 Paths, No Easy Solution on Abusive Priests

2 Paths, No Easy Solution on Abusive Priests

From the link:

"Father" Leroy Valentine

“Father” Leroy Valentine

ST. LOUIS, March 1— It has been 20 years since John Scorfina’s family complained to church officials about the Rev. Leroy Valentine’s sexualized horseplay with him and his two brothers, which they say ended with the priest molesting 11-year-old John.

It has been four years since the Scorfina brothers took $20,000 each from the Archdiocese of St. Louis on the condition they never speak of the settlement, believing that lawyers for the church had promised to remove the priest from parish work.

But when the three men recently learned that Father Valentine, who has denied any wrongdoing, was an assistant pastor at a church attached to a Catholic elementary school, the order not to speak could not contain their outrage.

”I just don’t want any kids to go through what I went through,” John Scorfina said this week.

Across the Mississippi River in Belleville, Ill., the priests who have been accused of sexual abuse no longer work in churches. One performs karaoke on Wednesday nights at the Lincoln Jug restaurant in Belleville and another pumps gas at his mother’s service station in the small town of Columbia.

In the mid-1990’s, the Diocese of Belleville publicly ousted 13 priests accused of inappropriate sexual contact with children, leaving them in an odd limbo — on the church payroll yet without portfolio, called ”Father” but barred from administering sacraments or wearing the collar. ”In the church,” said one, the Rev. Raymond Kownacki, ”you’re guilty until proven innocent.”

Cardinal Bernard Law

Cardinal Bernard Law

Here in the center of the country, these two dioceses — one, in a major city in which a third of the population is Catholic, the other a sprawling 11,000-square-mile expanse of small farm towns — have taken divergent paths in handling accusations of sexual abuse by clergymen.

While Belleville made headlines by removing priests, St. Louis quietly moved them around. Each diocese has a board to review the cases. In Belleville, a victim’s say-so was often enough for the board to strip priests of their church ministries; in St. Louis, many victims said they were unaware of the board’s existence.

As church officials nationwide rethink their approaches to the issue amid recent scandals, each bank of the river offers lessons about the intractability of the problem.

Belleville’s broad public sweep of priests from the altar may have eased victims’ pain, but it also left some parishioners uneasy that innocent men were being maligned, while others worried about potential pedophiles being released from the rectory, unwatched. The policy in St. Louis, until this week, of keeping nearly all accusations secret as the archdiocese moved the priests into new parishes, retirement, or low-profile posts, angered victims and may have led to further offenses.

The issue of sexual abuse by priests has taken on new urgency in recent months after disclosures that the Boston Archdiocese had known for years about the sexual misconduct of a priest who was accused of molesting some 130 children. That case led to repeated apologies from the leader of the archdiocese, Cardinal Bernard Law, who reversed his policy of keeping the matter within the church and gave state authorities the names of some 80 priests accused of abusing children over 40 years.

Since then, church leaders in New England and Philadelphia have informed parishes of similar accusations against priests, handed priests’ personnel files to prosecutors and relieved some of the accused of their duties. In Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahoney issued a public apology to victims and released a new policy vowing that a priest who had abused a child would never return to active ministry.

Here in St. Louis, an archdiocese of 223 parishes, church officials announced the removal of two pastors today, saying they had ”raised the bar” about who is unfit to serve in a parish post. The standard, since 1996, had been that any priest deemed to pose a future risk would be removed. Since the Boston incidents, they say that any priest with a substantiated accusation against him will be ousted. The two priests received treatment after the accusations, which are 15 and 14 years old, officials said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

”As painful as it is, we’re going to keep the trust of our people,” said Bishop Timothy M. Dolan, the vicar for priests. ”We have to be able to say, we have to be able to believe, that there is no priest in a parish against whom there is a credible claim of clerical sexual abuse.”

Accusations about pedophilia have plagued the Roman Catholic Church in the United States since the first major case arose nearly 20 years ago in a Louisiana parish. Experts warn that, like alcoholism, pedophilia is a disease that can be controlled but not cured, and that problem priests should not be reassigned to parishes where they are at risk of abusing again.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, who lives in St. Louis, says the experiences of Belleville, while flawed, are a starting point as bishops review policies. St. Louis, he says, is a model of what to avoid.

”In Belleville, like virtually every diocese in America, the survivor who comes forward has a long tough road,” he said. ”But in St. Louis, that road is steep, uphill, and seemingly endless.”

St. Louis

Parishioners Uneasy But Dependent

Father Valentine was the favorite of many children at St. Pius X, a parish and school in Glasgow Village, a community of identical aluminum-sided bungalows in the northern part of St. Louis. The priest took them out for ice cream and cheeseburgers. He lavished affection on children like the Scorfinas, who came from single-parent or troubled families. ”He was like the dad that wasn’t there,” said John Scorfina, who now runs a construction company.

Father Valentine, in an interview on Thursday at the rectory of St. Thomas the Apostle, where he is now an associate pastor, said he was barred by the legal settlement from discussing the case. When told that this was his opportunity to respond to whether there was any truth to the accusations, he looked down and shook his head. The senior pastor, the Rev. Henry Garavaglia, who sat in on the interview, said, ”Emphatically, I would say no.”

Cardinal Roger Mahony

Cardinal Roger Mahony

Then Father Valentine looked up and said suddenly, ”At the same time, parents should always be concerned who’s working with their children.”

Others who lived in Father Valentine’s parish said they felt uneasy about him, particularly when he wrestled with groups of boys and slid them over his body in a game he called ”crack your back.”

Tom Joseph, 32, remembers a 1982 trip with Father Valentine to the Illinois River in which he says the priest playfully tackled him, pulled down his pants and spanked him. Mr. Joseph, then 13, did not tell anyone, but says that he never went anywhere with the priest again.

Margie Lewis, a single parent, said that one day she called home and was surprised to learn from her daughter that Father Valentine was there wrestling with her son and his friends. She said that she asked him to come to the phone, but he would not, and that he left suddenly.

The Scorfina brothers were also home alone on the day they say that Father Valentine came over, and initiated a wrestling session. Soon, they say, the priest fondled two of the boys and then took John into a bedroom and sodomized him.

”I remember I had a Pittsburgh Steelers poster on the wall, and he made me name all the players until the deed was done,” John Scorfina said. Asked in his 1998 deposition how long it lasted, Mr. Scorfina said, ”About 10, 15 minutes, maybe, give or take, say, forever, 26 years.”

Katie Chrun, the Scorfinas’ mother, recalled that when she arrived home her youngest son asked: ” ‘Mom, should a priest touch you like that?’ I said, ‘Like what?’ ”

Mrs. Chrun said she contacted the authorities, but was told by pastors and a policeman that it was an internal church matter and to keep quiet and be forgiving.

Then, three months later, Mrs. Chrun, her mother and her sister went to meet with Father Valentine in the rectory. Mrs. Chrun and her sister, Linda Thurman, both say that he apologized and said that if he did something wrong, he must have blacked out.

Asked about the meeting, Father Valentine said, ”It was an apology that they had taken something wrongly.” He said he never said anything about blacking out.

Archbishop Robert Carlson

Archbishop Robert Carlson

Within the month, Father Valentine was removed with no explanation to the Scorfinas or the parishioners, and in the next 12 years was reassigned to three parishes, two of them with schools. Not until the Scorfina brothers filed their lawsuit, in 1995, were parishioners at the church where he worked at that time informed that there were accusations of child sexual abuse against him. The Scorfina brothers sued the Archbishop of St. Louis and Father Valentine and the archdiocese settled with the family in 1998.

Though they refused to discuss specific cases, Bishop Dolan, who also handles sexual abuse cases for the archdiocese, as well as the archdiocese’s lawyer and a psychologist who sits on the review board acknowledged that Father Valentine had been evaluated and treated by medical professionals, and that he had been put on sick leave for four years.

In 2000, as Father Valentine was assigned to his current post in Florissant, a St. Louis suburb, the church’s senior pastor sent parishioners a letter informing them about a 1982 accusation of sexual misconduct against Father Valentine. The letter said Father Valentine had ”unambiguously denied the allegation” and that therapists had concluded he posed ”no threat to children.”


Some Settled, Some Unheeded

Interviews and court records suggest Father Valentine’s is not the only St. Louis case where accusations led to transfers — or where victims complained of being ignored by the chancery.

Cardinal Justin Rigali

Cardinal Justin Rigali

Church officials refused to say how many priests, before last week, had ever been publicly removed because of sexual abuse. Doug Forsyth, a lawyer who has handled about two dozen cases against the archdiocese — 15 of which he said were settled — and victims’ advocates said the only cases they were aware of in which removal was publicly attributed to pedophilia were ones in which the priests did not deny the accusations in court.

One of those priests, the Rev. James Gummersbach, admitted in a 1994 lawsuit that he had abused boys in several parishes over decades. Further, in a sworn statement, he acknowledged that from his ordination in 1954 through the 1990’s ”the only known action taken by the defendant archdiocese in response to the accusations that defendant Gummersbach had sexual contact with minors was to transfer Gummersbach and instruct him to obtain personal counseling.”

One man who said his complaints about a priest went unheeded was Steven Pona. Court records show Mr. Pona, now 33, wrote to the the vicar general in 1983 contending that that the Rev. Bruce Forman, director of the Young Catholic Musicians orchestra and choir, tried to seduce him at a drive-in screening of ”Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Mr. Pona said the incident followed at least five occasions in which the priest tried to approach him sexually.

”During the movies he had his arm around me in a funny sort of way, sort of at the waist,” Mr. Pona wrote in a teenager’s cursive. ”I pushed his arm back forcefully and said, ”Don’t, I’m not that type.’

Diocesan directories show that Father Forman, who did not return calls for comment, was moved only once in the last 20 years, in 1986, to the parish where he remains pastor. Mr. Pona’s letter, in a sealed envelope, was placed in the priest’s file, marked, ”To be opened by archbishop only,” according to court records.

Mr. Pona’s lawsuit, filed against Father Forman and the archbishop, was dismissed because of the statute of limitations. But as the issue resurfaced in the news in January, Mr. Pona said, he went to see Bishop Michael J. Sheridan, who at first was compassionate but later phoned to say he had researched the case and found no evidence.

On Friday, Bishop Dolan said Mr. Pona’s recent complaint might have gotten lost because it arrived shortly before Bishop Sheridan left for another assignment. Bishop Sheridan did not return several phone calls on Thursday. In the interview today, Bishop Dolan urged parishioners to ”tell us again” if they were unhappy with how complaints had been handled.

The archdiocese’s new strategy of removing priests based on substantiated accusations rather than assessment of future risk has already spawned criticism. Parishioners at St. Cronan’s Church, where the pastor was removed on Wednesday, gathered that evening to pray for their priest.

”People are feeling that it’s sort of an infringement of our Christian community to have someone taken from us without any consultation and without any explanation,” said Bill Ramsey, a member of St. Cronan’s. ”I don’t think anybody wants sexual abuse anywhere, but it’s a fact of life and there are more constructive ways to deal with it than ordering people away from other people.”


Model System Still Falls Short

The church used to shuffle priests accused of sexually abusing children among the 127 parishes in the Belleville diocese, too.

In a 1995 lawsuit against Father Kownacki, one of the ousted priests, and the diocese, Gina Trimble Parks asserted that while she was the priest’s teenage housekeeper, the priest repeatedly raped her over two years and ultimately fed her a quinine potion to bring about an abortion. Court records show Ms. Park’s family made the same assertions to the bishop in 1973, and that Father Kownacki had two previous complaints of sexual abuse against him from other assignments. He was sent for treatment and later returned to a parish.

The lawsuit was dismissed because of the statute of limitations. ”I was too old to fight it,” he said of his ouster in a recent interview, adding that his family and friends ”know the accusations aren’t the truth.”

The Rev. Clyde Grogan, longtime pastor of St. Patrick’s in East St. Louis, said he brought several victims and their families to the chancery to register complaints in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and nothing happened.

”You know how it was handled?” asked Father Grogan, raising his hand and forming a zero with thumb and forefinger. When victims complained, he added, ”The bishop would give lots of assurances. I think the strategy was, what do the people want to hear?”

That changed in 1993, after The Belleville News-Democrat published an article describing how a priest had molested high school boys aboard a houseboat on Carlyle Lake 20 years before. The accused priest was immediately removed and church leaders began rewriting their sexual abuse policy.

Four priests were ousted in the weeks that followed and eight more priests and a deacon were pushed out in the next two years as the diocese investigated a swell of complaints, most of which first appeared in The News-Democrat.One as eventually returned to a parish.

”We were kind of learning as we went,” said Msgr. James E. Margason, Belleville’s vicar general, who helped write the new policy. ”We were damaging someone’s reputation, we didn’t know if the allegation was true. What drove us was to protect children.”

Margie Mensen, a social worker who was the administrator of the Belleville review board from its formation until 1998, said a credible accusation from a victim was enough to remove a priest, often within days of the complaint. Many of the priests never presented their side to the board; only one admitted the abuse. Several refused treatment.

The diocese has since settled at least three of eight lawsuits (one is still pending in federal court) and paid for counseling for 49 people, including victims and their families. Though the state’s attorney subpoenaed all the review board’s records, it filed no charges, because the accusations were years old and lacked corroboration.

But if Belleville has been heralded as a model, many in the community remain dissatisfied with the process.

Father Grogan says the diocese’s 80-some priests are still divided as to whether they believe the abuse accusations. Parishioners at one church wore yellow ribbons to protest their pastor’s removal. Donations dipped for years as people feared the Sunday collection plate would go to defray legal expenses.

Those who say they are victims remain outraged that the priests retain their titles, salaries and pensions.

”That’s kind of a slap in the church’s face, my face, everybody’s face,” said Mary Aholt, whose husband was among those to receive a settlement. ”Everybody that’s paying their salary, and that’s everyone that belongs to the Catholic Church.”

Others worried that the church is not properly supervising the people it had deemed a problem. The Rev. Louis Peterson works in a restaurant in Lebanon, Ill. Father Kownacki collects coins and stamps in a dingy first-floor apartment in Dupo, Ill., where he said he sometimes celebrates Mass for family and friends, against the rules of his administrative leave. The Rev. David Crook has left the area.

”I have a whole new life,” said the lounge singer at the Lincoln Jug Restaurant, Msgr. Joseph R. Schwaegel, who still faces a federal lawsuit, along with the diocese, by a California man who asserts that Father Schwaegel repeatedly touched his genitals and raped him in 1973, when the plaintiff was 8. Father Schwaegel declined to discuss the case.

The Rev. Robert Vonnahmen, a former camp director who faced at least three lawsuits accusing him of luring boys to his cabin for massages that led to molestations, runs a Catholic retreat center and a $3-million-a-year tax-exempt tour company, formerly owned by the church, which leads Catholic ”pilgrimages” to dozens of destinations. (Two of the lawsuits were dismissed because of the statute of limitations, a third was settled out of court.)

At his office the other day, Father Vonnahmen wore a short-sleeved black shirt with Roman collar, button open, defying the church’s sanction. He has denied all accusations against him, twice petitioned the Belleville review board to reinstate him and has now appealed his case to the Vatican. ”I’m not going to give up on the Lord or the church, either one,” he said. ”I know these things happen occasionally. I can’t imagine the large number of people in Belleville. There was a rush to judgment.”

No Belleville priests have been removed since 1997. Monsignor Margason said the 800-number set up to receive abuse complaints has been silent for a year.


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