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Norwich diocese now faces 35 sexual assault lawsuits connected to Deep River school

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The Diocese of Norwich and former Bishop Daniel Reilly now face 35 lawsuits in which men allege that as children and teens they were raped and sexually assaulted by Christian Brother K. Paul McGlade, who ran the former Academy at Mount Saint John in Deep River in the 1990s.

The latest lawsuit was filed Dec. 16 on behalf of Sam Garcia, 40, of Bridgeport by the Reardon law firm of New London. This is the only one of the lawsuits in which the plaintiff is identified by name. The others are only identified by pseudonyms, such as John Doe. Most of the 35 defendants are represented by Hartford attorney Patrick Tomasiewicz.

Attorney Kelly Reardon said her firm has one more lawsuit to file and she expects there eventually will be more than 50 plaintiffs in total. She said none of the cases has been settled but discussions with the diocese, Mount Saint John and the Christian Brothers are ongoing. Tomasiewicz declined to comment on the cases Tuesday, and the diocese did not respond to a request for comment.

Mount Saint John, meanwhile, has put the closed school and its 87 acres of property along the Connecticut River up for sale. 

Settling the cases with the large number of plaintiffs or having to pay damages could be extremely costly for the diocese, which has already paid out at least $9.5 million in settlements to people who say they were raped and sexually assaulted by various diocesan priests over the years. Other victims have been barred from filing lawsuits because of a statute of limitations, but that law could be changed in the upcoming General Assembly session, which would open the door to more lawsuits. 

On Tuesday, Reardon said Garcia wanted to be publicly identified to be transparent and "let other victims feel they can come forward and not be ashamed of what happened to them."   

Also listed as defendants are the now-defunct school and the Oceania Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers in Australia, which is where McGlade was from. Now deceased, he also has been accused of sexually assaulting young boys in Australia before coming to Norwich. Records show the Norwich diocese requested to have McGlade transferred to Deep River.

Reardon said it's still a mystery about why the Norwich diocese asked for McGlade to be transferred from Australia. She said many of those involved in the decision are deceased. One who is not dead is Reilly, who served as the president of the school's board of trustees during the period of the alleged assaults.

A May 1989 agenda from the Provincial Council of the Christian Brothers in St. Patrick's Province in Australia states it had decided to approve McGlade "taking up the Norwich offer" with several conditions. These included that Norwich pay all expenses and that McGlade, who died in 2013, obtain "spiritual direction and counseling to deal with discernment agendas in hope that Paul will grow beyond current province image as a person of self pity and scape goating."

According to McGlade's obituary, he moved to Deep River in 1990 and stayed at Mount Saint John for 13 years until October 2002.

Reardon said Garcia, who was raised in Philadelphia, moved to Connecticut when he was 10 or 11. She said he had a troubled youth and had been involved in the juvenile justice system, which is how he ended up at Mount Saint John. At the time, the state Department of Children and Families used the academy as a boarding school for at-risk children struggling with behavioral, family, emotional and educational problems. Some had been sexually assaulted before being sent to the academy.

Garcia's suit states that DCF sent him to the school between 1992 and '93, when he was 11 and 12 years old.

The suit states McGlade encouraged and taught Garcia to be an altar boy while finding ways to be alone with him. During these times, the suit states, McGlade forced the boy to perform oral sex on him, forced the boy to remove his clothes, and that McGlade fondled him and engaged in other acts of "sexual assault, abuse, and exploitation."

"It was obviously incredibly traumatic for him. As a child you're taken advantage of by someone you trust and by someone you've been placed in the care of by the state," Reardon said.

The suit charges that the diocese, Reilly, the school and the Christian Brothers "knew or should have known that Brother Paul sexually assaulted, abused, exploited, and battered young children through improper and illegal sexual conduct, including the Plaintiff."

This included knowing that McGlade was inviting and bringing minor boys to his room for extended periods of time. One of the suits also accuses another Christian Brother of sexual assault. 

The suit also charges the defendants allowed McGlade to continue to use Garcia "as his sex object" and failed to report his conduct to police and DCF as required by law. Documents show that Reilly failed to report that priests he supervised over decades had sexually assaulted minors on numerous other occasions and instead transferred those priests to other parishes.

As the Reardon law firm has done in others lawsuits in which it has won six- and seven-figure settlements for victims of priest abuse, it alleges in the Garcia suit that the diocese and Reilly participated in a conspiracy with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other bishops throughout the U.S. to develop and carry out a scheme designed to conceal criminal conduct of Catholic priests. The suit alleges they failed to report criminal conduct to proper authorities, obstructed justice and bribed or paid victims in order to keep criminal conduct secret in an effort to maintain charitable contributions and avoid public scandal.

The suit comes as the Norwich diocese continues its 14-month-long investigation into the extent of abuse of children by priests assigned to the diocese dating back to its founding in 1953. It is unknown when the investigation will be complete. The diocese said the results of the investigation will be presented in a public report that will address the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy as well as the response of church leadership to the abuse.

In February 2019, the diocese released the names of 43 priests who have served in the diocese and had "allegations of substance" made against them regarding the sexual abuse of minors. McGlade did not appear on that list, nor did Paschal Alford, another Christian Brother named in at least two of the Mount Saint John lawsuits, because the diocese said they were Christian Brothers and not clergy members (priests, deacons or bishops).

The list also did not include what parishes the priests served, what they were accused of doing nor whether the diocese reported them to police or DCF, which clergy have been required to do under the state's mandatory reporter law since 1971.

Prior to the release of the list, The Day had identified 28 priests and brothers affiliated with the diocese who have been accused of sexually assaulting children and adults, according to lawsuits, depositions, sworn statements and statements from alleged victims. Six of them were not on the list released by the diocese.

 j.wojtas@theday.com

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