March 31, 2005

Murderer alleges clergy sex abuse


Thursday, March 31, 2005

SPRINGFIELD - Bishops Christopher J. Weldon and Timothy J. Harrington are among seven deceased priests being accused of sexual abuse by an imprisoned Texas murderer, whose brother has raised concerns about the validity of the claims.

The suit, which was filed yesterday in Hampden Superior Court by Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso, names the Springfield and Worcester dioceses as defendants. The seven priests served in either one diocese or the other or both after the Springfield diocese was split in two in 1950 to create the Worcester diocese.

William E. Burnett, a 64-year-old Springfield native who is serving a more than 50-year sentence in prison for the 1990 murder of a retired businessman, said in the suit that he was introduced to the priests through his uncle, Monsignor Raymond J. Page, who also is accused by Burnett of abusing him. The abuse allegedly began around 1950, when the accuser was 9 years old.

The other priests named in the suit are the Revs. Bernard L. Doheny, George A. Berthiaume, James T. Walsh and Oscar Gatineau.

Diocesan and lay individuals expressed support for the accused priests and concerns about the accusations.

"We have nothing in our records that in any way would provide support for these allegations," said the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, in a statement.

"I would hope that the names of good priests and bishops who cannot defend themselves are not being impugned for ulterior motives," McDonnell's statement read.

Posted by kshaw at March 31, 2005 06:41 AM