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Investigation: Abuse allegations against Catholic bishop ‘credible’

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — An independent investigation found that allegations of child sexual abuse by a former Roman Catholic bishop in Massachusetts were “unequivocally credible,” according to an executive summary of the report released Wednesday.

Retired Superior Court Judge Peter Velis’s report of abuse allegations against late Diocese of Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon also criticized the way the diocesan review board handled the allegations.

Velis found that there was a “reluctance to fervently pursue an evaluation of allegations against (Weldon) due to his prominence and revered legacy in the religious community.”

Velis also found that mandatory reporters had not notified law enforcement.

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Weldon served as bishop from 1950 until 1977. He died in 1982.

The investigation was launched after a man came forward last year to tell current Bishop Mitchell Rozanski he had been sexually abused by Weldon in the early 1960s.

The report also makes several recommendations, including the appointment of an administrative supervisor of investigations for the diocese.

In a briefing Wednesday, Rozanski said he accepted Velis’s findings on the credibility of the man’s allegations.

“Most importantly I want to sincerely apologize to this victim not just for the terrible abuse he had to endure as a young child, abuse which still haunts him to this very day, but I want to apologize for the chronic mishandling of his case time and time again since 2014,” Rozanski said, according to a transcript provided by the diocese. “In almost every instance we failed this courageous man who nonetheless persevered thanks in part to a reliable support network as well as a deep desire for a just response to the terrible abuse he endured.”

Rozanski added that “we need to go beyond an apology, rather once and for all we need to implement real and substantial changes — some which we have already undertaken with our complete revamping of our Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance, some which are recommended in the second part of Judge Velis’ report and still others which will arise from the work of our recently created Independent Task Force on the response to Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Springfield – a group whose work begins in earnest today.”

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Mitchell Garabedian, the prominent Boston lawyer who has represented many clergy sex abuse victims, said, “The findings of retired Judge Peter Velis provide further evidence of the Catholic Church’s continued shameful cover-up of the wholesale sexual abuse of children at all levels no matter what the human cost. Time and again it has been shown that Diocesan Review Boards across the country are only kangaroo courts meant to hide the truth.”

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.