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Bishop accused in child rape case

Bishop Thomas L. Dupre, the former head of the Springfield, Mass., Catholic diocese, was indicted on two counts of child rape Monday, but the prosecutor announced shortly afterward that he would not take the case to court.

Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett said he would not press the charges because the six-year statute of limitations had run out.

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

In the indictment released Monday, Dupre was charged with molesting two boys in the 1970s, becoming the first Roman Catholic bishop to face criminal charges in the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the American church.

Bennett said the grand jury was convened to investigate all aspects of the allegations against Dupre, including whether he tried to cover up the abuse and whether he had abused any other children.

When Bennett announced in the spring that he would present the case to a grand jury, he initially conceded that it could be difficult to charge Dupre with abuse because of the statute of limitations. But the prosecutor said later that Dupre could be charged because of more recent attempts to conceal the alleged crimes.

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. He also said that there was no evidence Dupre destroyed or concealed any evidence of sexual misconduct by other church officials.

According to the indictment, Dupre started raping one of the boys in 1976; he started abusing the other boy in 1979.

Dupre's alleged victims, who filed lawsuits against the bishop, 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.

Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the diocese, said Dupre's successor, Bishop Timothy McDonnell, would have no immediate comment on the indictments.

After his retirement, Dupre went to St. Luke Institute, a private Catholic 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 whereabouts were not immediately known.

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