Founders of New Spirit religious camp banned and suspended from ministry in Springfield Diocese for ‘boundary violations’ with teens

SPRINGFIELD — The founders and 28-year-old chaplain of the New Spirit religious camp have been disciplined by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield after a year-long investigation into allegations of misconduct, a spokesperson said Monday. from the church.

While authorities and members of the Diocesan Review Board looking into the misconduct allegations found no evidence of sexual misconduct or “grooming,” they did find that founder Barry Kingston, a Longmeadow musician , had committed “multiple boundary violations” with multiple teens dating as far back as 2007.

“There is no credible evidence to conclude that Barry Kingston sexually abused, assaulted or groomed minor children in connection with New Spirit, Inc.’s activities within the Diocese of Springfield,” the diocesan spokesperson said. Mark Dupont in a statement responding to a Republican inquiry into the status of the investigation.

“There was ample evidence that Mr. Kingston’s behavior in his position as co-founder of New Spirit, Inc. while ministering to the Diocese of Springfield was inappropriate and involved multiple boundary violations with multiple children minors,” the statement continued, adding that Kingston, 58, is prohibited from working with local diocese youth.

“As a result, Mr. Kingston is permanently prohibited from any work, volunteer activity, performance or ministry in any capacity with minor children in any parish, school, agency or other related or affiliated ministry in the Diocese of Springfield,” Dupont said. .

Springfield co-founder and realtor Patrick Sears has been accused of ignoring a complaint from a girl since 2018 and refused to participate in the investigation on the advice of his lawyer, according to Dupont, adding that he will be suspended from the ministry until he does so.

Father Rick Martignetti, a Franciscan priest who lives out of state, also ignored complaints against Kingston, the diocesan review board concluded. He will not be welcome to minister in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts unless he completes mandated “Massache-specific” journalist training and agrees to meet in person with the Bishop of Springfield, the most . Reverend William D. Byrne.

The organization is independent of the Diocese, but has been running two-week summer camps at the Diocese’s Holy Cross Camp in Goshen for more than two decades. The investigation is the diocese’s most recent into allegations of misconduct since they released a lengthy report in 2020 finding child rape allegations against the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon and other priests credible. The report sparked a lawsuit in Hampden Superior Court that is heading to trial.

Attorneys for Kingston and Sears denied wrongdoing and denounced the Diocese’s investigation as reckless and baseless.

“Barry is very pleased that the Diocese has concluded, as we have always believed, that there is no basis to allegations of sexual conditioning of minors. Unfortunately, the damage was done when the Diocese recklessly made public these allegations last summer, without any investigation to determine whether they were substantiated. The diocesan reference to alleged ‘boundary violations’ is unfortunate, but sadly unsurprising,” said Kingston attorney David P. Hoose. “No one has briefed us on the details of these allegations, and they appear to be an effort to justify the pain and mental anguish the Diocese has inflicted on Mr Kingston for nearly a year.”

“As for the decision not to allow Barry to work with the diocese in the future, let me assure you that is not a problem. Given the way he has been treated, Mr Kingston informed the Diocese months ago that he had no interest in returning to work in any way with the Diocese of Springfield,” Hoose added. “Barry wishes to express his undying gratitude to the many former campers, counselors, parents and members of the faith community who have supported him throughout the past year.”

The Diocese’s statement was not specific about the allegations against Kingston. The church announced last year that it had received a complaint through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and had spoken with the North West District Attorney’s Office and the North West Police Department. State of Massachusetts. However, no criminal conduct was alleged. Camp sessions were suspended just before their scheduled start last summer.

Sears attorney Jared Olanoff said his client declined to participate in the investigation because he was suspicious of the church’s angle.

“Mr. Sears declined to participate in the church’s investigation for fear it had a hidden agenda or had already reached a conclusion,” Olanoff said. proved that Mr. Sears did nothing wrong and never failed in his responsibilities to campers and staff.The community is well aware of Mr. Sears’ character and integrity and knows that he does not will never evade its obligation to report abuse.

Dupont disputed Olanoff’s claim that Sears had been “effectively” exonerated; but instead the result was inconclusive as Sears refused to be interviewed by diocesan investigators.

The Bishop said he accepts the recommendations of the Diocese’s Office of Environmental Safety and Victim Assistance, with regret for the good works employed by the ministry.

“While I have no hesitation in accepting and implementing these recommendations, I do so with a heavy heart after hearing from many people about the significant and transformational impact the ministry of New Spirit Inc. has had on so many people over the past 25 years, sharing the Good News and their love for Jesus Christ with countless youth and young adults,” Byrne said in a statement. “But that same Good News also invites us to recognize the dignity of each person, formed in the image of Jesus Christ and, in turn, the specific responsibility we have to care for our young brothers and sisters.Nothing less than this is unacceptable.

Recommendations from the Diocesan Review Committee also include expanding mandatory training and adherence to Diocesan policies for all contractors, subcontractors and vendors who work with children in any parish, school, agency or ministry. related, said Dupont.

Kingston rose to prominence as a member of rock bands The Breakdown and the Screaming Souls. His first national exposure came after winning MTV’s “Basement Tapes” contest.

According to information on the ministry website prior to its demolition, New Spirit Inc. was founded by Kingston and Sears in 1994. They conducted more than 2,000 retreats and gatherings for 100,000 teenagers from 675 parishes and schools. Additionally, they have been speakers at youth gatherings for the Diocese of Springfield, the Archdiocese of Boston, and the Diocese of Providence. The ministry received funding through the annual Catholic Appeal.

Kingston is featured on various music related websites as a Christian rocker with tracks such as ‘Hail Mary/Gentle Woman’, ‘Rosary Hill’, ‘I Love You Lord’ and ‘Night of the Screaming Soul’.

The charity’s most recent records show that Kingston and Sears paid each other annual salaries of more than $76,000 to run the ministry, in addition to travel budgets of $12,000.

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