Springfield’s recently installed bishop, William Byrne, on Monday expressed his “personal and sincerest apology to the Croteau family.”
“It is incredibly disheartening to learn that a priest, a person ordained to care for God’s people, would have committed such an evil crime and then not taken responsibility for his actions. This is all totally contrary to the teachings that we as Catholics believe in and hold sacred,” Bishop Byrne wrote in a statement.
“It is also another reminder of our past failures as a Church and a diocese to protect children and young adults from such terrible predators in our midst. Although we have made great strides in improving our child protection efforts, that is little consolation to the victims of Richard Lavigne and the numerous other sexual predator clergy who preyed upon our youth.”
He urged any additional victims of abuse to come forward and report their experience to both law enforcement and the diocese.
Springfield’s bishop from 1995-2004, Bishop Thomas Dupre, reportedly came under criticism for his response to Lavigne.
In February 2004, Dupre himself resigned and left the state to check into a medical facility soon after being confronted by allegations he had sexually abused two teen boys in the 1970s.
In September 2004, he became the first Catholic bishop in the U.S. to be indicted on criminal charges for sexual abuse, but he did not ultimately stand trial. He died in 2016.
Former Springfield bishop Mitchell Rozanski, now Archbishop of St. Louis, is accused in a lawsuit of covering up abuse allegations in Springfield. The plaintiff claims he suffered trauma as a result of the diocese’s mishandling of an abuse allegation he brought against the late Christopher Weldon, Bishop of Springfield from 1950-1977.
Archbishop Rozanski has admitted that the diocese mishandled the abuse case, which the plaintiff says he first brought to the diocese’s attention in November 2014.