Difficult News For Our Diocese
November 2, 2020
Dear People of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts,
I am writing to share some difficult news. The diocese has received a serious complaint that the late Bruce Wirtz sexually abused children while he was rector of St. Peter’s Church in Springfield, a position he held from 1970-81. The complaint, which we are investigating, was made by a man who was a minor at the time the alleged abuse occurred.
Wirtz, who died in 2007, was deposed from the priesthood in 1992 by Bishop Andrew Wissemann because of allegations that he had sexually abused young adult men. Despite the circumstances that led to Wirtz’s removal from the priesthood, we were not aware at the time and are not aware now of any other allegations of child abuse against him.
In addition to his tenure at St. Peter’s, Wirtz served as rector of St. Matthew’s in Worcester from 1981 to 1991. He was also active in St. Michael’s Conference, a one-week summer program for high school and college students in the 1970s and early 1980s, when the program was held at a private school on Thompson Island in Boston Harbor.
As part of our investigation, we informed St. Peter’s and St. Matthew’s of the current complaint in September, and invited anyone in those parishes with information about situations involving Wirtz to come forward. To this point, no one has responded.
The Diocese of Western Massachusetts is firmly committed to the safety and well-being of everyone who attends our churches and programs, and to transparency about any misconduct or abuse that may have occurred in the past. To that end, we invite anyone who wishes to speak about any situation involving Mr. Wirtz, to contact the Rev. Dr. Molly Scherm, diocesan intake officer: mollyscherm (at) gmail (dot) com.
We realize that this news may raise questions or provoke painful memories. Please know that in the Episcopal Church today, we are committed to the safety of all children in all of our congregations. All staff and volunteers who work with children are required to complete training called Safeguarding God’s Children every three years, and our diocese has extensive and updated policies on preventing and reporting abuse and neglect. If allegations of child abuse against a living priest or layperson were reported to us or to any church employee or member of the clergy today, we would immediately contact civil authorities.
Please join me in praying for everyone affected by this situation and for all the faithful people of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts.
The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher