Our Opinion: Dioceses' welcome, overdue policy on abuse

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The announcement by the Roman Catholic Diocese that from now on it will immediately notify area law authorities once it learns of allegations of clergy abuse against minors or other "vulnerable persons" is cause for relief rather than celebration. ("Diocese reaches agreement on handling of clergy abuse reports," Eagle, May 7.)

This policy should have been adopted decades ago, and if it had, so many would have been spared so much misery

The agreement was entered into by Bishop Mitchell Rozanski with the three district attorneys of Western Massachusetts, including Berkshire DA Andrea Harrington, who describes it as "overdue." The agreement, which came about a year after it was revealed that assault reports supposedly provided by the diocese could not be found in the files of DAs, covers clergy as well as employees of the diocese and volunteers at diocesan programs.

The Catholic Church's policy of shuttling abusive priests from parish to parish was exposed most famously by the Boston Globe in the Boston Archdiocese. It happened, too, in the Springfield Diocese under some of Bishop Rozanski's predecessors, and elsewhere across the state, nation and globe.

The clergy abusers and the enabling bishops brought shame upon the church, infuriated parishioners and triggered lawsuits by brave victims in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Vatican under Pope Francis eventually demanded an end to this stonewalling and many individual dioceses are now rolling out reforms.

We further urge reform of the church review boards that investigate past claims in the Springfield Diocese and elsewhere. Last year. a Chicopee man's claims that he was abused as a youth by former Bishop Christopher Weldon was deemed lacking in credibility, only to have several members of the committee come forward to The Eagle to claim that his testimony was highly believable and it was the committee chairman that did not. The Springfield Diocese later acknowledged that the victim's testimony was credible. These are delicate matters but perhaps the review board members could announce their formal votes so this kind of confusion won't be repeated.

The efforts of brave victims and their legal counsel, persistent law enforcement officers, and media decried as 'anti-Catholic" for their pursuits of clergy abuse and church cover-ups finally forced the Catholic Church to mend its ways. We urge Bishop Rozanski to make this accord with the district attorneys succeed by seeing to it that all those who answer to him abide by its strict tenants on disclosure and cooperation with law enforcement. It is a sordid business, but those who have been pushing so hard for reform are by no means anti-Catholic. They are pro-justice, as are Catholics themselves.

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