United States of America
The Pope and his addressing the issue of clergy and sexual abuse by priests.
Family Launches Lawsuit Against Local Priest
By Matt DeLucia
In November 2007, a Springfield-area family accused father Aaron J.Cote of molesting their two and five-year-old boys. Angry withinaction, the family filed a 15-page lawsuit Tuesday against Cote andthe Dominican Church, with which he worked. Now, the family and a localactivist group are accusing the Diocese of Springfield for not doingenough to encourage other victims to come forward.
"We'reextremely disappointed and concerned that Bishop (Timothy) McDonnellstill hasn't done the outreach that he could do and should do," saidBarbara Blaine, President of Survivors Network of those Abused byPriests (SNAP).
The organization wants parishioners throughoutthe diocese to be notified about Father Cote, who served in WesternMassachusetts. Cote worked in the area as a Dominican priest. That, inaddition to Cote's family ties to Western Mass has led SNAP's membersto believe there are more victims out there.
"I can tell you, asone who has been victimized by clergy that the impact on a victim is sohorrific that it takes a lifetime of healing, and the only thing thatwe should be doing is prevention," said Blaine.
Cote wassuspended when the allegations surfaced. The Springfield Diocese saysthey have reached out, in part with an article in the Catholic Observernewspaper last November. SNAP says it wants a personal appeal by BishopMcDonnell, not a reporter's coverage of a press conference held by thegroup late last year.
"We've provided notification to everyonewho needs to hear about this, and... we absolutely believe SNAP'sallegations are unfounded and a disservice," said Mark E. Dupont,co-Secretary for Communications for the Diocese of Springfield.
As of Wednesday morning, Bishop McDonnell was not aware of SNAP's claims.
"No one's come forward to us so I wish they would give us the information," said McDonnell.
Hourslater, SNAP members delivered a letter to the Bishop's office, addingthat they will pay for advertisements in parish bulletins andnewspapers.
The lawsuit against Cote and the Dominican Churchwas filed in the New York State Supreme Court. The lawsuit citesinstances of sexual abuse and battery, along with negligence. Thevictims' family and SNAP hope the legal action will also get theattention of the Springfield Diocese.
"Maybe this new lawsuit will help (McDonnell) to recognize that these are really serious allegations," said Blaine.
DuPontsaid the Diocese is "certainly aware of allegations against FatherCote. He is not allowed to serve in this diocese in any capacity as apriest, and we have made that known countless times."
The abuseallegations against Father Cote are still being investigated by police.The Diocese of Springfield says it will consider running SNAP'sadvertisements.
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