Chapter Ten: Confidentiality Concerns

I said in the previous chapter that our Diocese had failed to observe the Dallas Norms with regard to confidentiality agreements and open and transparent communication with parishioners. On the last two points, I can prove that argument with two words: Thomas Dupre. Or should I say "Thomas Dupre?" We have not heard hide nor hair of Bishop Thomas Dupre from the Diocese for many years now.

In a Nov. 24 letter to the editor of the Berkshire Eagle, Diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont defended the reporting of the Catholic Observer and said that he invites comparison to other media. Okay, let's do that.

We've heard several times from the Springfield Republican in bylined articles about Dupre – where he is housed, what conditions he lives under, and who is supporting him. See especially "Bishop Dupre Still In Treatment", July 22, 2006. Not surprisingly, we learn that he's supported by the generosity of the parishioners of the Diocese of Springfield, for the most part.

On the other hand, we've not learned anything substantial about Dupre from the Catholic Observer over the last several years . Dupre is not a person that the Catholic Observer needs to take an interest in, or so I was told in a recent letter from Mr. Dupont. He tells me this despite the fact that Dupre was the CEO of the Diocese for close to ten years, and left his position in highly questionable circumstances. This abandonment of responsibility is not openness, it is not transparency, and it is not right.

It's a little harder to demonstrate why confidentiality agreements are so important. Don't the victims deserve privacy? Certainly they do, as much as they want and need. But, we need to remember that the claimants were not the parties. It was the Diocese that sued their insurance carriers. The Diocese and their insurers fought it out over who should pay what, resulting in a cash settlement that will resolve the legal claims of the victims.

But, masking the terms under which the legal fight was resolved has nothing to do with the privacy of the victims. It has everything to do with the privacy of the Diocese and its insurers - both of whom should be reporting to parishioners.

The settlement is more than an agreement to drop litigation. It is itself a sort of court decision, because once the suit for declaratory judgment is begun, the terms of any agreement to dismiss must be approved by the court.

This is why both sides were reported to be petitioning the court for permission to have the suit dropped. The fact that the judge accepted the petitions shows that he was satisfied with the terms, which included the mediation arrangements, allocated court costs, range of payouts, percentage retained by claimant's lawyers, and so on.

The problem is, once the suit is settled, it's not easy to know how and under what conditions it got settled. This is why the Dallas Norms of 2002 stipulated that confidentiality agreements in settlements should be confined to protecting the victims, and not used to protect bishops and institutions. Unfortunately, management of the Diocese of Springfield has apparently chosen to do that very thing.

Although the settlement is not the only reason for studying Diocesan history, it's the most proximate and compelling. We need to know more about the administration of this Diocese that we support with our hard-earned money. It would also be good to know how we got into a position of throwing away close to 5.5 million dollars.

Over the last 50 years or so, coinciding to the employment of the law firm Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, the Diocese has developed a well-defined playbook of strategies for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse. What follows over the next few chapters is an examination of recent Diocesan history that will illuminate some of these policies, and their outcomes.

We begin by tracing the legacy of Bishop Weldon and Maguire and the arrival of Bishop Marshall in 1992, just in time to confront the disastrous news about Rev. Richard Lavigne.

NEXT: Five Bishops