Diocese confirms resignation of priest because of criminal probe

Waterford — A spokesman for the Diocese of Norwich said tonight that the diocese has yet to learn the details of a criminal investigation of Rev. Dennis Carey, the pastor of St. Paul in Chains Church.

Michael Strammiello said Carey resigned on Friday after the diocese learned a day earlier that state police were investigating him. Earlier in his career, Carey had been assigned to St. Joseph in New London and St. John the Evangelist Parish in Old Saybrook.

Strammiello said he could not confirm an earlier report by WFSB-TV that police had seized computers from the church rectory and were investigating possible child pornography.

“We don’t have enough information yet,” Strammiello said. “We work with the limited information that we have. We want to be careful because we don’t want to interfere with the legal process here. My sense is we’ll learn more soon enough.”

He said it was unfortunate the report of possible child pornography became public before the police or the diocese had gathered all the details. Strammiello said the diocese was committed to offering its immediate cooperation with the investigation.

State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance would only say tonight that there is a criminal investigation of Carey. Two parishioners contacted by The Day declined comment.

Rev. Joseph Whittel, of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, led service Sunday at St. Paul in Chains. He read a letter from Bishop Michael R. Cote, who told parishioners that Carey resigned to “focus his energies on addressing any issues associated with the investigation.”

“Naturally, we all presume that Father Carey is not guilty of any wrongdoing and will continue to keep him in our thoughts and prayers. We have few details at this time,” Cote wrote. “For the parish community, for the priests of the diocese, and for me personally, it is extremely difficult. We are all deeply saddened.”

Strammiello said that Carey had left the church rectory. The diocese had yet to decide who will become the temporary administrator of the church, but Strammiello said discussions would be held early this week to determine a plan.

Cote’s letter was read at all weekend masses at St. Paul’s to update parishioners on the situation.

“The thinking was to keep St. Paul’s parish first in mind,” Strammiello said. “All of this unfolded so quickly. That felt very much like the right thing to do, to make sure the St. Paul family is aware that their pastor has resigned and there is a criminal investigation.”

Strammiello added that members of the diocese will likely discuss how to best communicate about the investigation with its more than 100 parishes throughout the state.

Carey was ordained a priest in 1998 after a 25-year career as a certified public accountant in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, according to biographical information on the diocese website.

He was appointed pastor at St. John Parish in Middletown in 2003. He previously was administrator of St. John’s. He also served at Sacred Heart Parish in Wauregan and Most Holy Trinity in Pomfret.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

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