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Mass. DA Can't Try Indicted Bishop

Former Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre won't have to answer to charges in Massachusetts that he molested two boys in the 1970s, but the legal problems for the one-time Roman Catholic leader — the first bishop to face criminal charges in the sex abuse scandal — haven't disappeared.

Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett said Monday that though the statute of limitations has expired, he will hand over everything that a grand jury probe has turned up on Dupre to federal authorities, as well as officials in Canada, New Hampshire and New York, where some of the alleged abuse took place.

Bennett said those jurisdictions may not be hamstrung by the same statute of limitation issues in Massachusetts. "They could then make their judgment as to what, if anything, they deem appropriate," he said.

Dupre also faces a lawsuit filed by the same accusers who say they were raped by the cleric while he was their parish priest. That lawsuit, filed in March, recounts several instances of alleged abuse that the men say left them emotionally and physically damaged.

Dupre, 70, cited health reasons when he resigned in February after nine years as head of the Springfield Diocese. But his departure came one day after The Republican newspaper of Springfield, Massachusetts, confronted him with allegations he abused the boys while he was a parish priest.

According to the indictment, Dupre started raping one of the boys in 1976 and took him on out-of-state trips; he started abusing the other boy in 1979. Dupre's alleged victims have said the abuse continued for years and that Dupre asked them to keep quiet about it when he was made auxiliary bishop in 1990.

Although the grand jury found probable cause in the case, Bennett said he was hampered by rules that would have compelled him to prosecute within six years of the alleged abuse.

"We've done everything we could do," Bennett said.

The decision means that, though Dupre is the first Roman Catholic bishop to face criminal charges in the sex abuse scandal still plaguing the U.S. church, he won't go to trial for them.

"Our hearts ache for these brave young men who did what they should: reported to police, cooperated with prosecutors, but were ultimately re-victimized by an archaic and dangerously restrictive legal technicality," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

But Dupre's lawyer, Michael Jennings, said Bennett was doing the right thing by choosing not to prosecute the case: "He has concluded that these allegations of wrongdoing cannot be prosecuted."

Jeffrey Newman, an attorney for the alleged victims, said the indictment showed that there is credible evidence against Dupre.

"I think they did it to help set the public record straight," Newman said. "They wanted to let people know that there is very significant evidence out there that helps establish that Dupre did, in fact, engage in illicit sex with minors."

After he stepped down, Dupre went to St. Luke Institute, a private psychiatric hospital in Maryland where the Boston Archdiocese sent many priests for treatment after sexual abuse allegations were made against them. The institute treats priests with emotional, behavioral, and psychological problems.

Dupre's current whereabouts were not immediately known.

Bishop Timothy McDonnell replaced Dupre in April. Since his installation, the diocese — which includes more than 260,000 Roman Catholics in western Massachusetts — has reached a $7 million settlement with 46 people who say they were abused by priests.

Bennett said the investigation uncovered no evidence to suggest there were any other victims, nor was there evidence that any church officials were aware of the allegations until they became public earlier this year.