fb-pixel
Kevin Cullen

The bishop of Springfield might want to look in his own backyard and practice a little tolerance

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski in 2015.
Bishop Mitchell Rozanski in 2015. Harrison Hill for The Boston Globe

In the wake of President Trump’s seemingly rash decision to take out that murderous Iranian general, we have been told the enemies of freedom and democracy are inspired and motivated by a form of religious extremism that makes them intolerant of others.

Which reminds me, did you hear about the Roman Catholic bishop of Springfield?

Thanks to New England Public Radio, we know Bishop Mitchell Rozanski forbid a performance by the Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus at a holiday concert at St. Theresa’s parish in South Hadley.

Henry Gibson, one of the chorus leaders, told me the annual December concert is ecumenical and it rotates among South Hadley’s churches, where they have performed before without incident. His chorus had been practicing for months for the St. Theresa’s show when, around Thanksgiving, they were disinvited.

Advertisement



“Our understanding is the complaints came from outside the parish,” said Gibson, who added it was shocking that such open bigotry was appeased.

I wanted to know what drove the bishop to exclude the chorus, but his spokesman, Mark Dupont, told me the diocese would not comment.

Too bad, because I’d like to ask the bishop how what he did squares with Pope Francis’ admonition to clergy to be a little nicer to and tolerant of gay people.

I also wanted to ask the bishop what he would think if someone suggested it might be prudent for him to ban himself and any and all of his successors from attending holiday concerts, given that at least three of his predecessors covered up the sexual abuse of children and minors by priests. One of those bishops was criminally charged with sexually abusing boys, while another has been accused of doing the same.

Bishop Thomas Dupre of Springfield holds the dubious distinction of being the first American bishop indicted for sexual abuse after the scandal exploded in 2002 with exposés by The Boston Globe Spotlight Team. Prosecutors dropped charges that Dupre plied two boys with liquor and pornography before assaulting them because the statute of limitations had expired.

Advertisement



Dupre, who with a straight face led the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage in Massachusetts, resigned in 2004, a day after Bill Zajac, a great reporter for the Springfield Republican, confronted him with the allegations. The Vatican accepted Dupre’s resignation but allowed him to remain a priest. He died in 2017.

In 2002, I wrote about Dupre punishing a good priest, Rev. Bruce Teague, after Father Teague had tried to prevent a convicted pedophile priest, Rev. Richard Lavigne, from trolling for kids at his church in Amherst. At the time, nobody could understand why Dupre was keeping Lavigne on the payroll. Two years later, after Dupre’s own criminal behavior was exposed, we had our answer.

In 2008, the Springfield diocese paid 59 victims of sexual assault at the hands of its priests $45 million.

In 2012, Dupre and his predecessor, Joseph Maguire, reached a $500,000 settlement with a man who said they failed to remove a priest who sexually assaulted him in the 1980s. Dupre, ever a man of God, took the Fifth in that case.

More recently, allegations have surfaced about a third Springfield bishop, Maguire’s predecessor, Christopher Weldon, who, like the others, looked the other way when it came to Lavigne, whom he ordained. Prosecutors are investigating claims by a man who says Weldon, who died in 1982, and two other priests from the Springfield diocese raped him when he was a boy.

Advertisement



Now, despite all this sordid history, anybody suggesting we should ban bishops of Springfield from holiday concerts because of the behavior of other bishops would be rightly denounced as an unreasonable, intolerant bigot.

So what, pray tell, shall we call those who were in favor of disinviting and shunning the Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus, whose members stand accused of nothing more than liking to make other people happy by raising their voices in song?


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com