SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Independent Task Force announced recommendations on how to improve the response to allegations of sexual abuse within the Diocese of Springfield.
A news conference was held at the Bishop Marshal Center in Springfield beginning 10 a.m. to release the final report that details recommendations on how to improve the response to allegations of sexual abuse and how to assure a safe environment for all minors.
Bishop William D. Byrne of the Diocese of Springfield was joined with the following:
- Task Force co-chair Irene Woods, founding executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin in Greenfield
- Task Force co-chair Orlando Isaza, former program officer at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts
- Additional members of the Task Force
Over the last 20 months, a plan of recommendations was developed after a focus group of survivors conducted by Stop-It-Now analyzed 492 surveys submitted by members of the community. The 10-person special Independent Task Force gathered information from victims of Clergy sexual abuse.
Bishop William Byrne has accepted the long-awaited report that is aimed at better responding to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and church workers within the Diocese.
“I offer my assurance that this report is just the beginning. The work of the task force is critically important to turning our words of commitment into accountability and transparency into tangible action,” said Bishop Byrne.
The final report includes six strategic initiatives and the more than 500 pages of supporting source documents and appendices. The six strategic initiatives are as follows:
- The diocese will acknowledge the trauma of sexual abuse on members of our community and ensure the allocation of resources needed to promote healing of survivors and the faith community.
- The diocese will respond to all allegations of sexual abuse in our church community in a timely, compassionate and fair way.
- The diocese will ensure a transparent system of protocols and procedures that guarantee respect and due process for all involved.
- The diocese will ensure that the local church leadership is held responsible and accountable for failing to protect children and other vulnerable persons.
- The diocese will hold those who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse responsible and accountable.
- The diocese will establish programs designed to prevent sexual abuse of anyone in our faith communities in the future.
“The work of the Task Force is critically important to turning our words of commitment to accountability
and transparency into tangible action. I am incredibly grateful for the participation of the stakeholders,
whose critical feedback substantively assisted the work of the Task Force. I receive this report with a
grateful heart,” said Bishop Byrne.
According to a news release sent to 22News from the Diocese of Springfield, Bishop Byrne has already implemented several recommendations from the report:
- The joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the diocese and the three district attorneys’ offices whose jurisdictions cover all western Massachusetts.
- The Mandated Reporter Policy was implemented in May of 2021.
- The Diocesan Review Board, which hears cases of sexual abuse and makes a recommendation to the bishop about the credibility of a claim, has also been reconfigured with new bylaws written by a sub-committee of the Task Force.
The Task Force will remain in place until a new on-going committee is appointed.