Saturday, November 13, 2004 - Worcester, Mass. - Fr. James J. Scahill, of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, received the Priest of Integrity award at a conference hosted by the New England affiliates of Voice of the Faithful today. The award, given by the organization of lay Catholics formed in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, honors priests who exemplify the meaning of honorable pastoral service. Fr. Thomas J. Doyle, who received the first Priest of Integrity award in 2002, and David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), presented the award to Fr. Scahill on November 13th in Worcester, Massachusetts at a Voice of the Faithful conference entitled "It's Not History - It's Time for Renewal."
"It's Not History - It's Time for Renewal" brought members of Voice of the Faithful and other area Catholics together to consider the current condition of the Church and ways that Catholics might help to restore trust and faith in the Catholic Church in the United States. Speakers included Sue Archibald, Jason Berry, Fr. Tom Doyle, David France, David Gibson, Paul Lakeland, David O'Brien, Tom O'Neill III, Gerald Renner, and Fr. Robert Silva.
Members of parishes holding ongoing vigils around the archdiocese of Boston also discussed their experiences during the parish closing process and their decision to hold ongoing parish vigils to keep their faith communities alive. Additionally, the diocesan child safety directors for Boston, Worcester, Fall River and Springfield hosted a panel on keeping parishes safe for children. "This was a tremendously rewarding day for Voice of the Faithful and for Catholics across the region," said Robert Morris, conference organizer. "The crisis within the Church has taken a toll on all of us who care about the future of the Catholic Church, but it is much easier to be optimistic about renewal after hearing the many loving and inspired voices we heard today."
Fr. James J. Scahill Outspoken Supporter of Survivors
Fr. Scahill, the pastor of St. Michael's parish, is an outspoken supporter of the community of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. In 2002, Fr. Scahill announced that the parish would withhold its weekly contribution to the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, because the Diocese had not removed a notorious priest and convicted abuser, Richard Lavigne, from its payroll. The monies withheld were delivered to the Diocese only after all payments to Lavigne were terminated.
Fr. Scahill also was instrumental in bringing the allegations against former Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre to public attention. Fr. Scahill counseled the mother of one of the survivors. He then brought the claims of abuse to the attention of Archbishop O'Malley of the Boston Archdiocese and to law enforcement officials in Massachusetts. Dupre resigned his position as bishop when the allegations against him became public.
Fr. Scahill has begun to work with the Diocese toward community healing despite some initial tension with the new Bishop in Springfield, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell. In September, Fr. Scahill and Bishop McDonnell held a healing Mass for survivors at St. Michael's parish. Bishop McDonnell apologized to Fr. Scahill for remarks he had made about him and to survivors for the abuse that they had suffered.
In 2002, Fr. Doyle said about Fr. Scahill, "Scahill has not only listened to his parishioners' concerns, he has realized that they are his concerns as well and he has taken action! This action has galvanized not only his parish, but also the Greater Springfield community behind him and his parish's just cause."
"Fr. Scahill demonstrated exemplary courage and principled Christian leadership by speaking up for victims of abuse and insisting that the Church do the right thing in responding to them," said James E. Post, president of Voice of the Faithful. "When he spoke out, he could not have contemplated the hardship he would face or the criticism he would bear. But he did not flinch or forsake those survivors of clergy sexual abuse. And, looking back today, we can see the power of his actions - they are a beacon of integrity for all to see."