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Alleged victims invited to installation

Bishop's gesture is met by anger and curiosity

SPRINGFIELD -- Along with the 1,300 friends, family, and fellow clergymen expected to attend his installation as head of the Springfield Diocese, Bishop Timothy McDonnell has also invited alleged victims of clergy sex abuse to the ceremony.

The invitations to the April 1 ceremony were mailed last week and received with anger, indifference, and curiosity by some of those who say they were molested by diocesan priests.

Marty Bono, one of dozens who are suing the diocese and the priests they say molested them, said he feels the church is trying to trot him out like a "trophy fish" in front of the new bishop.

"How dare they try to put me up like a poster child," he said. "I'm a victim."

Church officials say the invitations were meant as an offer of good will to the alleged victims. Invitations were sent to every priest in the diocese except those who have been accused of abuse.

"Bishop McDonnell feels like he wants to be open to these people," said Laura Failla Reilly, the diocese's victim advocate. "He understands some will not come because of their feelings of anger. But he thought this was a way to reach out."

Reilly said McDonnell also plans to meet individually with alleged victims after he is installed.

"If they're really trying to reach out to everyone, I suppose it's not a bad thing to invite us," said Steve Block, an alleged victim of abuse who is giving his invitation to someone who appreciates it more than he does. "I wasn't offended that they invited me, but I certainly wasn't honored."

Twenty alleged victims were invited to the installation, Reilly said. According to a study released by the diocese, 70 people have claimed they were abused by priests since 1950.

McDonnell was assigned to take over the diocese earlier this month, weeks after Bishop Thomas Dupre resigned from the post after The Republican newspaper in Springfield confronted him with allegations he abused two boys in the 1970s.

The two alleged victims are suing Dupre, and Hampden District Attorney William Bennett has a grand jury investigating the charges. Dupre has not responded to the allegations.

His accusers were not invited to the installation.

Tom Martin, another alleged victim, said he will probably attend the installation. But he is skeptical of the church's intentions.

"I feel like I'm being singled out to sit with all the victims," he said. "I'd go because I'm curious. I'm optimistic about the new bishop. But I'm cautious."

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