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State AG's office says it's seeking court OK to release report on abuse in Mass. Catholic dioceses

A sign picketers held outside the Massachusetts Attorney General's office on July 17, 2023 when they asked for the release of a report on an investigation into child sexual abuse at the Worcester, Springfield and Fall River dioceses.  Skip Shea, a survivor of abuse at the Worcester Diocese is in pictured on the top left. Another survivor, Phil Saviano, (1952-2021) founded the New England chapter of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Terry McKiernan
/
courtesy BishopAccountability.org
A sign held by picketers outside the Massachusetts Attorney General's office on July 17, 2023. The protesters were asking for the release of a report on the AG's investigation into child sexual abuse at the Worcester, Springfield and Fall River dioceses. Skip Shea, a survivor of abuse at the Worcester Diocese, is pictured on the top left. Another survivor, the late Phil Saviano (right), founded the New England chapter of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

When Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey was attorney general, investigators from her office interviewed survivors about the abuse they experienced in the Worcester, Springfield and Fall River Catholic dioceses.

The results of the investigation have never been made public, but one survivor of abuse recently received an email from the AG's office that indicated investigators are working on it.

Skip Shea met with the AG's investigators more than two years ago, on September 29, 2021. He told them three priests from the Worcester Diocese had sexually abused him at different times. It started when he was 11 years old at St. Mary's Parish in Uxbridge. He told them he was also abused at the House of Affirmation, a treatment center for pedophile priests in Whitinsville.

Shea said two people from the AG's office asked questions and a Massachusetts state trooper took notes.

"They asked a lot of questions that they knew the answers to because they had my files in front of them. And I believe that some of those files ... they actually obtained from the Diocese of Worcester," Shea said. "They were probably trying to confirm my story with me and then we went a bit deeper into the story because they were looking, I think, to try to find criminal charges."

Since then, Shea has written the AG's office — now led by Healey's successor, Andrea Campbell — multiple times asking for the release of the report. He also picketed in front of the attorney general's Boston office with advocates from BishopAccountability.org on July 17, 2023, asking for the report to be made public.

Shea received no response until April 16, 2024.

Anne Kelley McCarthy, chief of the attorney general's Victim Services Division told Shea in an email that "the Attorney General’s Office is still in the process of seeking court approval to release the Diocese report."

The email did not explain why court approval is needed.

Shea said it gave him a little bit of hope.

"I think once some of these names — if some of these names of the priests come out in this report, then I think more people may come forward and try to get seek justice," he said.

Shea said a report from the attorney general's office would also validate the experience of victims who have not come forward, providing credibility by potentially naming the perpetrators of the crimes.

Campbell's office declined to comment.

Healey's office referred NEPM to Campbell's office.

The email from McCarthy to Shea acknowledged the delay.

"I realize that you have been waiting quite some time and this lengthy process is extremely frustrating!" McCarthy wrote. "I want you to know that we will notify you and other survivors involved as soon as we receive the court’s approval for release. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns."

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.