| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Jeffrey Trant, the newly appointed director of the Office of Safe Environments and Victim Assistance for the Diocese of Springfield said he will be reviewing past cases of sexual abuses in the diocese and working on “transparent policy procedures and practices” as well as identifying opportunities for improvements.
Trant was introduced to the media at a press conference on June 18 by Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski.
Trant is a social worker whose practice includes working with both children and vulnerable adults. The appointment is “an opportunity to bring together my practice and background,” Trant said.
Rozanski said, “I know the pain caused by the terrible abuse of children by Catholic clergy continues to be felt throughout our faith community. It is felt first and foremost by victims and their families, but that pain is borne by all of us. Let me be clear on how deeply sorry I am for the past failures of our church to respond to the needs of victims and to protect them from abuse. Our goal now is to deal compassionately and justly with those who come forward.”
Earlier this year, Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni established a toll-free line for people to report cases of clergy abuse directly to trained staff in his office. At the time of the announcement in February, Gulluni said, “In light of recent reports and statements by the Springfield Diocese, along with other issues of inconsistency in respects to the reporting of clergy sexual abuse, I have set up a Clergy Sexual Abuse Hotline. I am asking for anyone who is a victim of clergy sexual abuse to please contact law enforcement directly, even if it is an old allegation that you think has gone unaddressed, please report it to law enforcement directly.”
Trant said, “The diocese has been in communication with the district attorney’s office, identifying and formalizing our procedures through a memorandum of understanding to ensure that all parties are on the same page with reporting.”
The bishop also explained that for the first time there is now a means to report and investigate reports of abuse against bishops or allegations that a bishop did not comply with the Charter to Protect Children and Young Adults. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to implement a new universal law established by Pope Francis in May.
Rozanski said the pope’s action’s “close the circle” in terms of how the church handles abuse cases.
A former Springfield bishop, Thomas Dupre, was indicted in 2004 on two counts of child molestation. He was not prosecuted because of the statue of limitations had ended. He died in 2016.
Referring to recent media reports about alleged abuses linked to the late Bishop Christopher Weldon, Rozanski said, “But as recent news reports demonstrate we have faced many challenges in achieving that goal not the least of which is the reality that many victims only become fully aware of what happened to them decades after it fist occurred. Investigating and being able to establish as creditable these decades old sinful and criminal actions is not an easy task. But it is a task we remain committed to fulfilling with integrity.”