Former Bishop Thomas Dupre, the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States to be indicted on a sexual-abuse claim during the flood of abuse accusations against church officials, has died. He was 83, the Diocese of Springfield (Massachusetts) said. He died outside the diocese, but the location and the cause of his death weren’t disclosed.
Dupre, who became bishop in the mid-1990s, cited health reasons for his sudden retirement in 2004. Months later he was indicted on charges he raped two boys in the 1970s, but the case was dropped because prosecutors determined the statute of limitations had expired.
Before Dupre became bishop he had been an aide of Bishop Joseph Maguire, who led the diocese from 1977 to 1992 and faced allegations after retirement that clergy sex abuse and a cover-up had happened on his watch.
In 2009, a man alleged in a lawsuit that a known pedophile priest molested him at St. Patrick’s Parish in Williamstown in the early 1980s, when he was a boy. He said Maguire and Dupre knew the priest had abused other boys but assigned him to the church anyway.
Dupre testified for a deposition in the man’s lawsuit but repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Dupre’s lawyer tried unsuccessfully to have the judge impound a videotape of the deposition, saying the accuser merely wanted to use it to embarrass Dupre and embarrass the church.
In 2012, the man reached a $500,000 settlement. Maguire apologized for the man’s suffering, saying, “I only wish that in 1976, as a new bishop, I could have foreseen the true nature of one who violated our trust with such devastating harm to his victims.”
Dupre was defrocked by the Vatican in 2006. The priest also was defrocked. Maguire died in 2014 at 95.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, which covers western Massachusetts and has more than 200,000 members, has paid more than $12 million to sex abuse victims since 2004. It said in 2008 it had paid $4.5 million to 59 victims in a settlement that included a personal donation from Dupre.
Three people who said they were abused by Dupre were included in the settlement, and the prelate gave his own money to fund a portion of payments to two victims, diocese spokesman Mark Dupont said.