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Springfield, Mass. Bishop Accused Of Sexually Abusing Two Children

By Pam Belluck

The New York Times -- BOSTON

A district attorney in Springfield, Mass., said Thursday he would present a grand jury with accusations that Bishop Thomas L. Dupre of Springfield abused two boys when he was a parish priest.

An indictment by the grand jury would make Dupre the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States to be criminally charged with sexually abusing children, according to advocates for people who have been abused by priests.

At least four bishops have been forced to resign over sex abuse accusations since the clergy sex abuse scandal erupted two years ago. And at least two grand juries have investigated whether bishops should be held criminally liable for failing to respond to abuse complaints about priests in their dioceses, though no charges were brought. But no American bishop has faced a criminal charge that he himself was abusive, said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Dupre, 70, said on Feb. 11 that he was retiring for health reasons. The move came a day after The Republican newspaper in Springfield confronted Dupre with accusations that he had abused the two boys, beginning in the 1970s.

A lawyer for Dupre, Michael Jennings, did not respond to a phone message left Thursday afternoon. A spokesman for the Springfield Diocese, Mark Dupont, issued a statement saying that the diocese would continue to cooperate with investigators. Dupre has not commented on the allegations since they became public.

A lawyer for Dupre’s accusers, Roderick MacLeish Jr., said both had been altar boys at a parish in western Massachusetts. MacLeish said Dupre molested one of the boys starting when he was 12, soon after the boy arrived in 1975 as a refugee from another country. Two years later, that boy introduced Dupre to a 14-year-old friend. MacLeish said Dupre raped both boys. He said the bishop sometimes molested them at the same time.

MacLeish said Dupre also bought the boys pornography, provided them with alcohol before sexual encounters and took the boys to other states and Canada. He said Dupre molested the first boy until he was 17, and the second until he was 20, and continued to initiate occasional sexual conduct with them into their 30s.

MacLeish said that Dupre contacted the men before he was named auxiliary bishop of the Springfield Diocese in 1990, and again when he was named bishop in 1995, and asked them not to publicize his conduct. MacLeish said Dupre sent letters and other correspondence to the men, and provided one with a “small amount” of money for therapy.

“My clients in no way tried to extort the bishop,” MacLeish said. “They felt for a long period of time that he genuinely respected and loved them.”

MacLeish said one of his clients came forward after being dismayed to hear Dupre discussing same-sex marriage and saying that the church had the right to sanction people’s sex lives. The other client had met with Dupre at a restaurant in January, thinking it would be cathartic, but was disappointed that while the bishop apologized, he also asked for continued silence, MacLeish said.

On Thursday, William M. Bennett, the district attorney of Hampden County, said in a statement that he had “determined that there is probable cause to support these allegations.”