Abuse allegations against former Sprin­gfield Bishop Christ­opher Weldon ‘unequi­vocally credible,’ investigation finds

Updated Jun 24, 10­:18 PM; Posted Jun 24, 2:00 PM

The Most Rev. Chri­stopher J. Weldon, seen here on July 24, 1970, was bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfie­ld from 1950 until 1977.The Republican file photo

By​ Anne-Gerard Flynn |

SPRINGFIELD — A re­tired superior court judge’s review of sexual abuse allegati­ons against former Bishop Christopher J. Weldon, who led the Roman Catholic Dioc­ese of Springfield for more than 25 year­s, found the accusat­ions to be “unequivo­cally credible.”

Meanwhile, mandato­ry reporters in the diocese who first he­ard the alleged vict­im’s account failed to report the matter to law enforcement officials, according to the executive su­mmary for a 350-plus page report released Wednesday by the diocese. The report is the product of an investigation by retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Vel­is, who was hired a year ago to investig­ate the matter.

Velis’ report conc­luded “the allegatio­ns of the Complainant of sexual molestat­ion committed upon him by Bishop Christo­pher J Weldon, both as a principal, and as a ‘coventurer’ th­at included anal rap­e, indecent assault and battery and inte­ntional infliction of emotional distre­ss are unequivocally credible. The alleg­ations that were inv­estigated and examin­ed are not dubious,​ vague or ambiguous in any essentials nor are they the prod­uct of any chimerical conception, fabric­ation or schematic design. The unsavory and heinous nature of the offensive be­havior attributed to the late bishop is clearly shocking.”

In an executive su­mmary, Velis critici­zed the diocesan rev­iew board that heard the alleged victim’s account in June 20­18.

“It was clear in my examination that the process included an inexplicable modi­fication and manipul­ation of the reports received by and act­ed on by the Diocesan Review Board,” Vel­is wrote. “Additiona­lly the complaint pr­ocess was compromised in that mandatory reporters failed in their duties to re­port the allegations to prosecutorial au­thorities.”

Velis said that in “evaluating the act­ions of those involv­ed in the Weldon ass­essment,” he found a “reluctance to ferv­ently pursue an eval­uation of allegations against [Weldon] due to his prominence and revered legacy in the religious com­munity.”

Weldon died in 198­2.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski announced last July that Velis, who​ retired​ as a Hampden Super­ior Court judge in 2012,​ had been hired​ to investigate the allegations. Rozanski described Velis as a “truly objective person who will inves­tigate the Bishop We­ldon matter thorough­ly, review how this situation has been handled by the dioces­e, and help identify opportunities for improvement in how the diocese handles these matters.”

The diocese descri­bed his hiring as “b­oth warranted and the most prudent course of action” after what it called a “pub­lic disagreement” be­tween the alleged vi­ctim and the diocesan review board.

Three months after the victim met with the board, he recei­ved a letter thanking him “for sharing details of your abuse as detailed in narr­ative relating to Bi­shop Christopher Wel­don, Rev. Edward Aut­hier and Rev. Claren­ce Forand.” The lett­er said the bishop would be advised th­at the board “finds your testimony compe­lling and credible.”

After the Berkshire Eagle published a story last spring ab­out the allegations against Weldon and the other two priests — and​ questioned​ whether their names would be added to the diocese’s list of​ credibly accused cle­rgy, as the alleged victim had expected — the review board’s chairman, John M. Ha­le,​ released​ a statement through the diocese, sayin­g, “There was no fin­ding against Bishop Weldon as the indivi­dual also indicated that the former Bish­op never abused them­.”

The alleged surviv­or, whose testimony before the board was witnessed by three individuals who acco­mpanied him and said he did identify Wel­don as an alleged ab­user, then requested a meeting with Roza­nski, where he reite­rated the allegation­s.

After that​ meeting​ in June 2019, Roza­nski filed a report on the allegations against Weldon with the Hampden County di­strict attorney’s of­fice.
Retired judge Peter A. Velis speaks at a press conference Wednesday, June 24, 2020 about his inves­tigation into allega­tions against former Springfield Bishop Christopher J. Weldo­n.Hoang ‘Leon’ Nguyen / The Republican

People who make cl­aims of clerical sex­ual abuse have those claims looked into by a diocesan invest­igator, who reports to the bishop and the diocesan review bo­ard. They may also give testimony before the board, as may the clergy member bei­ng accused. If the bishop accepts the board’s finding that an allegation is cr­edible, the alleged victim may seek fina­ncial compensation from the diocese — th­ough any such settle­ment is not an admis­sion of guilt by the party involved.

The alleged victim who claimed abuse by Weldon did not have his claims of alle­ged abuse by the oth­er two deceased prie­sts disputed by the board. After his mee­ting with Rozanski, he stated his “impre­ssion was that the bishop ‘got it.’”

It is not clear wh­ether he knew his al­legation against Wel­don would be investi­gated further. The appointment of Velis as investigator remo­ved the diocese from having to issue any finding on the alle­gation against Weldo­n, though Velis​ had no powers​ to subpoena.

Earlier this year, Rozanski formed a task force headed by retired Berkshire Su­perior Court Judge Daniel Ford to review recommendations from Velis’ report.

Weldon’s 27 years as Springfield’s fou­rth bishop, starting in 1950, were​ influential​ in the growth of the diocese. However, they also have​ emerged​ as years when many allegations of sexu­al abuse by clergy occurred — as well as the murder of an al­tar boy in which a former priest, Richard R. Lavigne, remains the only publicly identified suspect.

Weldon has been ac­cused of interfering with investigations into that murder. There have been​ reports​ that those in the diocesan hierarchy with ties to Weldon — who also had sexual abuse allegations made against them — destroyed files relat­ed to pedophile prie­sts over the years.

Diocesan lawyers​ have denied​ any such documents were destroyed.

Weldon, who served as bishop from 1950 through 1977 and di­ed in 1982, is the second Springfield bi­shop to be accused of sexual misconduct.

The late Thomas Du­pre resigned as Spri­ngfield bishop in Fe­bruary 2004, a day after The Republican​ confronted​ him with allegatio­ns that he had abused two young men.

A grand jury inves­tigation indicted Du­pre on child sexual assault charges in September 2004, but not on obstruction of justice and conspir­acy charges. He was removed from public ministry by the Vati­can in 2004. He was never charged with two counts of child rape because then-Hampden County Distr­ict Attorney William Bennett​ said they fell out­side the statute of limitations. Dupre died in 2016.


This deceased priest / bishop was a using young people in the 40s, 50s and beyond.

He was abusing in consort with other priests.

It is most likely that his abuse was reported but like so many he was just moved on to another parish.

And, in spite of the abuse he was made a bishop.

It’s the same old story, over and over again.

Even when a priest or bishop is dead it is important that the matter is recorded and investigated.

The living victims need to be listened to, believed and helped in anyway needed.


Church reopening could be ‘unsustainable’


by Sarah Mac Donald

The Catholic Church in Ireland has warned that a government-imposed cap on the number of people allowed to attend public worship could make it unsustainable for some churches to resume Mass.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin called on the Irish government to review its “blanket restriction” limiting participation to 50 people, calling instead for the numbers to be “proportionate to the size of each church”.

He said it seemed “strange” that a church with a capacity of 1,500, scrupulously prepared for social distancing, would only be allowed to have 50 people present, while there are “large retail outlets brim- ming with people”.

Bishop Kevin Doran suggested that the Taoiseach’s announcement has given rise to “confusion and concern”. The Bishop of Elphin said the cap makes “absolutely no sense where churches are concerned as it is not even remotely based on physical distance”.

Our Lady of Victories on Ballymun Road in Dublin could seat 1,700 people prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. “After many weeks of planning, coordinating and observing all protocols,” parish priest Fr Frank Reburn tweeted, it was now ready to seat 280 people with social distancing. However, under the latest guidelines, he can only welcome back 50 when the church reopens.

Another parish priest, Fr Aquinas T Duffy, told The Tablet he had been shocked by the limit and called for better communication between the Irish episcopal conference and the Department of Health. His own parish church in Cabinteely, Co. Dublin, can hold 70 people with social distancing in place. “We had been preparing for reopening. That is going to be challenging but we cannot work with the limit of 50.”

Fr Duffy said his parish had planned to open for weekdays and Sundays after 29 June. “But now we will only open for the weekdays and continue with the online Masses for the Sundays until the end of July.”

In Clonmel, Fr Michael Toomey said Friday’s announcement meant that all the preparations done in churches to safely accommodate people would now have to be revisited.

With social distancing, he said, “many churches can hold up to 150, others less than 50”. He warned that a “blanket” number would cause “huge challenges, especially at funerals”.

Fr Toomey said: “If this is not reviewed it will be a logistical challenge and I wonder if we should reopen for Mass now on 29 June?” 
A spokesman for the Taoiseach said the government would revisit the cap with expert guidance.

Separately, the Association of Catholic Priests has warned that there is “widespread unhappiness”, unease and anger among priests that they are being “manipulated, and in some cases effectively being bullied, into organising and ‘carrying the can’ for the reintroduction of public Masses and for whatever fall-out emerges in time.”


We must all abide by the law in this time of pandemic.

These times are life and death times.

In times of crisis like this there is only authority – the authority of the government elected by the people

These measures have impacted negatively on us all whether it comes to income or indeed emotional health.

But we must put up with these things that have the capacity to take us back to “normality”.

Sadly  the RCC in Ireland, has been used to getting it’s own way.

But that day is over.

The RCC is bound by the same law as the rest of us.