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Claim: Abuse Ignored

Layman says priest's actions known in 1960s

Sep 29, 2003 | AP

A Chicopee layman who was active in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said in an affidavit he believes church authorities knew of abuse allegations against the Rev. Richard R. Lavigne as early as the late 1960s, years before the diocese says it first learned of such allegations.

The Sunday Republican of Springfield reported that Maurice E. DeMontigny, a confidant of the late Bishop Christopher Weldon, recounted being told by his former pastor of such allegations in the late 1960s.

DeMontigny told The Associated Press yesterday he had no concrete evidence that the parish priest, the late Rev. Thomas P. Griffin, told Weldon about the allegations against Lavigne. But, he said, "my gut feeling of who he is and who he was is that (Griffin) would have reported that to Bishop Weldon."

Church officials and their lawyers have said they didn't receive complaints that priests were molesting children until 1986, when Lavigne was accused of raping altar boys. The diocese stands "staunchly" behind that statement, spokesman Mark Dupont said yesterday.

Lavigne pleaded guilty to molesting two other boys in 1992. The diocese settled 17 sexual abuse suits against Lavigne in the 1990s. At least 14 more are pending.

Two of DeMontigny's nephews, Raymond and Joseph Gouin, were among 17 Lavigne accusers who settled a suit with the diocese for $1.4 million in 1994.

DeMontigny's statements were made in an affidavit responding to the church's request that five abuse suits be dismissed based on charitable immunity laws that protected the church before September 1971. He said he made a similar claim in a sworn statement to an attorney in 1992, but it was never made public.

DeMontigny, now 72, was appointed by Weldon to local and New England boards for religious education and was a founding member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Springfield.

"I believe, based upon my familiarity with the workings of my parish and of the Diocese of Springfield, that diocesan officials knew, as of the late 1960s, that Lavigne was a child molester," he said in the affidavit.

In one case, DeMontigny recalled Griffin, his pastor, first sharing with him an accusation of sexual abuse against Lavigne in the late 1960s. He recalled Griffin saying "he needed my help for a serious and grave matter and asked that our conversation be held in the strictest of confidence," DeMontigny said in the affidavit.

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