In July 2012, a claim was brought against the Fall River Diocese by two adult males alleging they had been abused as minors by the Reverend Monsignor Maurice Souza, a priest of the Fall River Diocese who died in 1996 at 83 years old.
According to the allegation, the abuse took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s while the claimants were parishioners of St. Anthony Parish in East Falmouth where Monsignor Souza served as pastor from 1977 to 1986.
No other allegations of abuse or inappropriate conduct against Monsignor Souza had ever been brought to the attention of the Fall River Diocese.
As per policy of the Fall River Diocese, counseling services were offered to the two men making the claim.
Diocesan legal representation met with the men in the presence of their legal counselor to investigate their claims and did not find substantial support for the serious allegations being made. Because so many years had passed since the time of the alleged transgressions and given that the alleged perpetrator had been dead for 16 years, the Fall River Diocese agreed in 2013 to enter into mediation with the claimants’ attorney to bring closure to the case. Shortly thereafter, in May 2013, their attorney ended the mediation process.
Their attorney was not heard from again until January of this year, when a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the two men by their attorney in Connecticut against the Fall River Diocese and the retired Archbishop of Connecticut, Daniel A. Cronin.
Archbishop Cronin had served as Bishop of the Fall River Diocese from December 1970 through January 1992, and is accused in the lawsuit of negligence for failure to oversee Monsignor Souza during that time.
As noted previously, the only allegations of abuse or any impropriety against Monsignor Souza were brought to the attention of the Fall River Diocese in 2012; this was 20 years after Bishop Cronin had left the area for Hartford.
All allegations of abuse are taken seriously by the Fall River Diocese and concern for victims is paramount. The Diocese is committed to keeping children safe. Its policies and procedures in place since 1993 are updated periodically and cover all clergy, religious, employees, and volunteers involved with ministries of the diocese. Key elements are mandatory reporting of suspected cases of child abuse to the District Attorney’s Office and Diocesan authorities; an offer of counseling and pastoral support for alleged victim and his/her family; placement of alleged perpetrator on leave from ministry during investigation of allegation and permanent removal if allegation is found credible; review by a predominantly lay Review Board of allegations made against clergy; and criminal background or CORI checks and abuse prevention workshops for clergy, employees, and volunteers who have unmonitored contact with children.