NORTH ADAMS — A priest who began his career in North Adams is the first to join the list of those “credibly accused” of sexual abuse since that roster expanded in June to include clergy who died before a survivor came forward.
An official with the Springfield Diocese said Wednesday that the Rev. James Paul Menge, who died in 2010, was added to the roster Sept. 1. More than one person provided a credible report that he engaged in the sexual abuse of a minor.
This isn’t the first time Menge has been identified as an abuser. In December 2008, 20 months before Menge’s death Aug. 6, 2010, a Greenfield law firm said it had secured a financial settlement from an abuse survivor who named Menge as the perpetrator. In November 2008, the diocese provided $4.5 million in compensation to 59 abuse victims, according to the website BishopAccountability.org.
At the time of the 2008 financial settlement reported by the law firm Stobierski & Stobierski, Menge would not have been covered by the diocese’s long-standing rule of not listing priests against whom complaints were filed after their deaths. The diocese changed its policy this spring, when it disclosed that of 61 credibly accused priests, 33 served in Berkshire County.
The revelation about Menge came Wednesday as the diocese officially accepted a task force’s report recommending steps to improve how it responds to allegations of clergy sexual abuse.
Menge was assigned in 1962 to the St. Anthony of Padua Parish in North Adams, his first posting with the diocese. Menge served in 11 parishes over a 48-year career.
The abuse occurred from 1962 to 1970, according to the diocese’s entry about Menge. That period includes not only his North Adams service, but time assigned to St. Mary Parish in Springfield (1962), Holy Name Parish in Springfield (1962), Holy Cross Parish in Holyoke (1962-1963), Sacred Heart School in Holyoke (1963-1967), and then again with Springfield’s Holy Name Parish (1967-1971).
Menge spent another year in North Adams in the 1970s, serving from 1978 to 1979 with the St. Francis of Assisi parish.
At the time of his death, at 74, Menge had lived for at least four years in the Sisters of Providence Infirmary and died at the Mary’s Meadow nursing center in Holyoke. Before that, he was in residence for six years at Holy Family Parish, after his retirement in 2000.
Other assignments took Menge to Catholic churches in Longmeadow (St. Mary’s), West Springfield (St. Thomas the Apostle), Southwick (Our Lady of the Lake) Chicopee (St. Patrick’s) and Greenfield (Holy Trinity).
According to his obituary, Menge was ordained at St. Michael’s Cathedral on Jan. 27, 1962, by Springfield Bishop Christopher J. Weldon, whose name now also appears on the list of credibly accused clergy.
St. Anthony’s, in North Adams, lost its separate identity with a church consolidation in 2009. The church site is now known as St. Elizabeth of Hungary.