The Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese and three western Massachusetts prosecutors have reached a deal on how the church will report sexual abuse allegations.
Under the memorandum of understanding, the diocese has to turn over information about sexual abuse claims it receives to the appropriate district attorney's office. The church also will suspend its own investigation for three months, or longer if a criminal probe is taking place.
The deal comes after Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said last year the diocese was failing to refer all cases to prosecutors. Gulluni said this latest agreement should clear up those concerns.
"We're happy with this, that this will be in place going forward, to make sure that if any of those allegations come forward to the diocese, that they're given to law enforcement [and] law enforcement has the appropriate opportunity to investigate cases," Gulluni said.
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan also signed on to the deal. He said the church agreeing to come forward with sexual abuse claims was "four or five decades overdue."
"The abuse that was happening for many decades was screened out by authorities in the diocese, not only here, but elsewhere," Sullivan said. "Hopefully that practice will end."
Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington joined Gulluni and Sullivan in signing the agreement.
"This is an overdue commitment from the church after clergy members committed terrible crimes against children for decades and too many victims never received the justice they deserve,” Harrington said in a statement.
Bishop Mitchell Rozanski said in a press release the agreement "demonstrates our commitment to work with law enforcement in identifying all allegations of sexual misconduct that come to our attention."
The memorandum of understanding took effect April 28, when Rozanski signed it.