SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – Officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield have released findings of an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against late Bishop Christopher Weldon.
Last July, the diocese tapped retired Judge Peter Velis to lead an independent investigation to determine the credibility of the person’s allegations, examine how the diocese processed the complaint, and look for opportunities for improvement on how the diocese handles these cases.
Velis explained that the processing of the complaint was “replete with differing evaluations of the allegations and included conflicting analyses, opinions, and conclusions.” He added that “this reflected a clear lack of industry and concern for the quality of the entire process in terms of the scope of the investigation.”
Velis noted in his summary:
“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. Additionally, the complaint process was compromised in that mandatory reporters failed in their duties to report the allegations to prosecutorial authorities.”
The investigation also reportedly found that there was a “reluctance to fervently pursue an evaluation of allegations” because of Weldon’s “prominence and revered legacy in the religious community.”
Based on his investigation and evidence into how the diocese responded to the complainant, Velis explained that the procedure from the complaint's inception through follow-up "was greatly flawed.”
However, Velis noted that there was a “haunting consciousness” that Weldon would not be able to refute the allegations during the investigation and as such, he conducted the process “in the light most favorable to him.”
“However, notwithstanding, I still reached an informed and indisputable conclusion. I found the allegations of the complainant concerning the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon to be unequivocally credible,” Velis wrote.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski said:
"Most importantly I want to sincerely apologize to this victim not just for the terrible abuse he had to endure as a young child, abuse which still haunts him to this very day, but I want to apologize for the chronic mishandling of his case time and time again since 2014. In almost every instance we failed this courageous man who nonetheless persevered thanks in part to a reliable support network as well as a deep desire for a just response to the terrible abuse he endured."
Rozanski also directed the following:
- Trinity Health remove the former bishop’s name from its rehab facilities
- The diocesan cemeteries office make the necessary plans to move the former bishop’s remains to a less prominent location marked with a simple gravestone.
- Immediately remove all honorable mentions, references, memorials and pictures of the former bishop from all Catholic facilities.
- Weldon's name be placed on our diocesan website listing all those with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult.
With regards to the remove of Weldon's name from their rehabilitation hospital, Mercy Medical Center spokesperson Mary Orr noted:
"When Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital was named many years ago, it was done so with the best of intentions. The events of recent days have led us to consciously reflect on our Mission and core values and it is clear that it is necessary to retract that decision and change the name of Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital. Although a final determination of the new name has not yet been made, we will move through this process immediately."
Velis said moving forward, he is recommending a system based on checks and balances, replete with transparency and accountability that is confirmed by actions, including but not limited to the appointment of an administrative supervisor of investigations whose purpose will be to oversee the investigative process.
The system, he said, would include as prerequisites documentations of procedures and protocols in adherence with Dallas Norms and compliance with the laws of the state .
Western Mass News will continue to follow this story and will have more information as it becomes available.