SPRINGFIELD – Newly installed Bishop William Byrne said on Monday that improved communication with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, as well as greater transparency in how the diocese deals with allegations of abuse , will be a priority.
“This week, I met survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” Byrne said after his ordination and installation as 10th Bishop of Springfield ended Monday at St. Michael’s Cathedral. “Their courage and honesty are heroic. To those who are here and to all who have been abused, I offer my sincere apologies. “
Byrne referred to a recent online survey on this issue which showed respondents the feeling that the Diocese could improve the speed with which it responds to such allegations and show more compassion.
“The investigation that has been conducted in this diocese has spoken loudly since I arrived here on Elliot Street,” said Byrne, who was appointed bishop here October 14. “Transparency and communication are required of us, and that will be my priority. “
Last week Byrne announcement he would add the names of deceased priests to the list that the diocese publishes of these accused credibly. He is due to receive a report this spring from an independent task force on procedural reform regarding allegations of clergy sexual abuse and survivor awareness.
The Diocese of Springfield has a history of alleged sexual abuse of minors by more than one bishop, along with allegations of cover-up abuse. Survivors said they are keeping an open mind with the arrival of the new bishop.
a independent report found out this summer that it took years for the diocese to investigate a claimant’s allegations that he was sexually assaulted in his youth by the late Bishop Christopher Weldon, allegations the report’s investigator found credible.
The reforms have brought laymen from a variety of professional backgrounds to examine the procedures for dealing with allegations and assisting survivors. But bishops, as the main pastoral leaders and administrators of their dioceses, are ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of these procedures.
At Byrne’s installation ceremony on Monday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston stressed the importance of bishops, seen in the church as the successors of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ.
Seated on the altar as O’Malley delivered his sermon were Cardinals Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and Donald Wuerl, former head of the Archdiocese of Washington.
All four men have served the church through the worst revelations of clergy abuse. Their presence reflects both what the church has done to solve the problem and how much remains to be done.
O’Malley and Gregory were seen as reformers in church procedures for dealing with and preventing abuse, while Würl was pushed into retirement as head of the Archdiocese of Washington after a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury released a report revealing the extent of abuse and cover-ups in seven dioceses there.
O’Malley had been named leader of the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003 following the Boston Globe’s investigation into the clergy sexual abuse crisis there. The Globe exposed decades of cover-ups and helped facilitate reforms and millions of dollars in victims’ settlements.
O’Malley then became one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers on the matter and headed the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Gregory helped push for reforms in 2002 at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Archdiocese of Dolan helped pave the way for the impeachment of Theodore McCarrick, the influential cardinal who once led the Archdiocese of Washington, over allegations of abuse.
Before the ceremony, Robert M. Hoatson, co-founder and president of the survivors association Road to recovery, held a press conference in front of St. Michael’s Cathedral questioning Byrne’s appointment by the Vatican. Byrne served more than two decades as a university chaplain and parish priest in the Archdiocese of Washington under McCarrick and Wuerl, but he has never been charged with wrongdoing.
Hoatson was ordered by McCarrick. He said he was a clergy abuse survivor and is one of 30 claimants represented in New Jersey by attorney Mitchell Garabedian. Hoatson protested the announcement of the appointment of former Bishop of Springfield Mitchell Rozanski in June as Archbishop of St. Louis on the basis of that diocese’s handling of cases of clergy sexual abuse. Rozanski was installed as Bishop of Springfield in 2014.