SPRINGFIELD — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield is seeking to hire a new investigator to look into reports of clergy sexual abuse of minors for the Diocesan Review Board.
Jeffrey L. Trant, who recently was appointed to lead the diocese's newly designated Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance that oversees such allegations, said the person hired will succeed the first person to hold the position, retired State Police Officer Kevin Murphy. A search for his successor is underway.
"As a result of an ongoing review that the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance is completing since my appointment as director of the office in June, it was determined that there was a need to hire new investigative staff," Trant said. "Around the same time, Kevin Murphy, who has served as the only investigator for the review board, notified Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and me of his decision to retire."
Murphy has been the sole investigator for the Diocesan Review Board since 2004.
"The new investigator will succeed Mr. Murphy in conducting investigations of reports of clergy sexual abuse against children, youth and other vulnerable persons once we are cleared to do so by the district attorney for the jurisdiction where the abuse is reported to have occurred," Trant said.
He added, "We have posted the position and we are actively engaged in the search. The number of reports received by the diocese will determine the workload for the investigator."
Among the qualifications, candidates should have:
- A master's degree in criminal justice, social work, clinical mental health counseling or a related advance practice degree.
- A five-year proven record of conducting investigations into reported sexual abuse as a member of a law enforcement agency or civil investigative agency.
- A licensed and insured private investigator.
This year, the diocese has paid out nearly $15 million in settling 147 claims of clergy sexual abuse of minors since 1992.
An investigator reports their findings to the Diocesan Review Board, which also might hear testimony from the alleged victim as well as the accused before the board makes its recommendation to the bishop.
The search for a new investigator comes four months after Murphy and the Diocesan Review Board disagreed that an alleged victim gave testimony to them in 2018 that he was abused as an altar boy by the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon.
The alleged victim subsequently met with Rozanski, to whom he repeated his allegation.
The Springfield Diocese confirmed that the allegation was reported to the Office of Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni. The DA's office in February set up its own clergy sex abuse hotline after it said related data issued by the diocese on numbers of previous abuse cases did not match what had been reported to the DA's office.
In July, the diocese took the additional step of appointing retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct made against Weldon dating to the early 1960s.
Trant, a licensed clinical social worker and certified psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner who was present during the alleged victim's meeting with Rozanski in which he told of being abused by Weldon, represents the Ministry of Child and Youth Protection in the diocesan cabinet.
Trant said that, in his role, he is now the "social worker who receives allegations of abuse that are reported to the diocese" and as a mandated reporter notifies the appropriate district attorney's office.
"The Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance continues to notify the DA for the jurisdiction where the abuse is reported to have occurred," Trant said.
"The diocese continues to remain engaged in dialogue with the Western Massachusetts DAs on memorializing procedures for reporting of allegations that are received by the diocese. I am grateful for Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan and their staffs for their ongoing collaboration."
Trant's appointment and that of Li-Ling Lam-Waller as compliance officer to ensure polices are followed to protect minors from sexual abuse within the diocese were called a step toward better outreach to victims and better clarification of how the diocese handles allegations of clergy sexual abuse through its long-standing review board.
The appointments also were said to be an outcome of listening sessions Rozanski held this year to offer greater transparency into the review process for allegations against national, as well as worldwide, headlines around the issue of clergy sexual abuse last year, including the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
Recently, Trant's office clarified who needs to undergo what is known as a CORI check, that is a Criminal Offender Record Information check, to work for the diocese.
"As result of the ongoing review of policies and procedures, the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance determined there was a lack of clarity and consistency in the diocese's policy statements about who is required to complete a CORI to help inform decisions about hiring and who is approved to work in positions of trust on behalf of the diocese," Trant said.
"The new CORI Policy now clearly describes who is required to complete a CORI check because of their work on behalf of the diocese, either as a member of clergy or religious orders, as paid staff and educators, or as a volunteer."