Chairman Quits Abuse Review Board

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by Paul Murano  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 14, 2020   

Resigns over predator prelate case

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The chairman of the Springfield diocese's volunteer review board for clergy sex allegations has abruptly resigned his post and left the Church in the process.

In the wake of the release of a report finding credible sexual abuse allegations against the late Bp. Christopher Weldon and dysfunction by the Diocesan Review Board, the volunteer chairman of the review board, John Hale, stepped down in disgust last week.

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Bp. Christopher Weldon

Hale claimed the author of the analysis disregarded what the board had said and threw them "under the bus." He said he believed his position on a victim's account of abuse by Weldon and other priests was mischaracterized and "twisted." 

"The Church should not throw people under the bus, and that's what they did ... they threw the Diocesan Review Board under the bus and made it look like we were at fault," Hale complained.

Weldon led the diocese of Springfield from 1950–1977. He was consecrated by New York's Cdl. Francis Spellman, an alleged homosexual predator and "kingmaker," responsible for consecrating dozens of U.S. bishops — including Theodore McCarrick. Weldon retired as Springfield's bishop in 1977 and died in 1982. Allegations against him were officially heard posthumously in 2018.

After a standoff erupted between Weldon's accuser and the review board, the diocese hired retired judge Peter A. Velis to investigate and report on the matter. In a 375-page report released last month by the diocese, Velis removed all doubt about the credibility of the allegations against Weldon. 

It was clear in my examination that the process included an inexplicable modification and manipulation of the reports received by and acted on by the Diocesan Review Board.

"I find the allegations of the complainant of sexual molestation committed upon him by Bp. Christopher J. Weldon ... are unequivocally credible," wrote Velis.

He added, "The allegations that were investigated and examined are not dubious, vague or ambiguous in any essentials, nor are they the product of any chimerical conception, fabrication or schematic design."

 

What infuriated Hale was the part of the report that spoke directly about his review board.

"It was clear in my examination that the process included an inexplicable modification and manipulation of the reports received by and acted on by the Diocesan Review Board," Velis asserted. "Additionally, the complaint process was compromised in that mandatory reporters failed in their duties to report the allegations to prosecutorial authorities."

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Retired judge Peter A. Velis

That's not all. In the report, Velis imparted a motive on Hale and his review board. In "evaluating the actions of those involved in the Weldon assessment," he found a "reluctance to fervently pursue an evaluation of allegations against [Weldon] due to his prominence and revered legacy in the religious community."

Hale is retired from the U.S. Air Force as well as the Hampden County Sheriff's Department. Though he says he maintains the utmost respect for Springfield bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, calling him an "honest and honorable man," Hale is walking away from the Catholic Church, declaring, "I just don't believe people who can be so callous about thoughts and feelings should be in charge of my salvation."

The report, released in June, is prompting the purging of Weldon's name from a medical building, his photographs being stripped from walls and his body being exhumed and banished to a less prominent place in Gates of Heaven Cemetery.

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