Norwich diocese can't say if it will release names of priests accused of abuse

Following the Hartford Archdiocese's Dec. 8 announcement that it will publish the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse and report how much it has spent to settle lawsuits prompted by their actions, Diocese of Norwich spokesman Wayne Gignac said Tuesday he has no information about whether the diocese here would take the same steps.

“Parishioners will be informed directly, if and when such a decision is made,” Gignac said.

This weekend, Hartford Archbishop the Most Rev. Leonard Blair announced that in January the archdiocese would publish the names of its clergy members who have been involved in lawsuits and legal settlements or otherwise “credibly accused” along with the names of priests from other religious orders and dioceses who had been credibly accused of an offense that took place in the archdiocese.

He said the archdiocese will also contract for an independent review of all clergy files to identify any additional names dating back to 1953 when the archdiocese was formed. The list of names would be updated as any new information becomes available.

“Finally, the archdiocese will be publishing the financial outlay that has been made as a result of the abuse of minors by clergy and the sources of these funds,” Blair wrote.

Gail Howard, one of the leaders of the Connecticut chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she had to give credit to Blair for publishing such a list.

“But every diocese should have done this 10 years ago,” she said, adding that she questions whether the names of all accused priests will appear on the list.

She said there are examples across the country in which people who have made complaints against priests say the names of those priests were not contained in similar lists released by their diocese.

Blair’s announcement follows one by the Diocese of Bridgeport this fall in which it listed the names of priests accused of sexual abuse and the money paid out to their alleged victims. The Bridgeport Diocese also has hired a retired judge to review all its files and issue a report next year about the extent of abuse in the diocese.

Other dioceses around the country as well as several Jesuit provinces in the country have been taking similar actions as pressure has mounted on them following the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury probe that found that 300 priests in that state had sexually abused more than 1,000 identifiable children over 70 years.

In an interview after that report was released, the Most Rev. Michael Cote, Bishop of Norwich, said he was unable to turn over records of the sexual abuse of children by diocesan priests to the New London state’s attorney’s office and does not have the authority to seek action against former Bishop Daniel P. Reilly for transferring priests to new parishes after they allegedly abused children.

As for the Norwich Diocese not saying if it will follow the lead of the Hartford and Bridgeport dioceses, Howard said, “They are just that much deeper in their denial. They can’t fend this off anymore and hide the truth.”

She added that the National Bishops Association has been preaching transparency and zero tolerance since 2002 when the Boston Globe reported that diocesan priests who had sexually assaulted children were then transferred to other parishes where they assaulted more children.

“This is now almost 2019. It’s time the dioceses step forward,” she said.

The Norwich Diocese has paid out millions of dollars in settlements over the years to a large group of men and women who say they were sexually assaulted by priests while Reilly transferred numerous priests accused of sexual assault to new parishes.

Recently, two other men have come forward to say they too were sexually assaulted by diocesan priests but have been unable to file suits because the statute of limitations has expired. In recent weeks, 24 young men have sued the diocese and Reilly alleging they were fondled, sodomized and raped by a Christian Brother and another staff member while attending the diocesan-run Academy at Mount Saint John in Deep River from 1986 to 1996. More young men are expected to file lawsuits, according to the attorney who represents most of them.

Several weeks ago, a former deacon at Sacred Heart Church in Groton charged that he was the victim of an attempted sexual assault and inappropriate sexual advances by the Rev. Gregory Mullaney, the current pastor at St. Agnes Church in Niantic, during a 2006 trip to Rome.

Meanwhile, the January trial in a lawsuit filed by Jonathan Roy of Woodstock, who alleges that as an altar boy in the 1990s he was sexually assaulted hundreds of times by a diocesan priest at a church in Pomfret, has been postponed so the alleged victim and the diocese can possibly work out a settlement with an arbitrator.

That priest, the late Paul Hebert, was transferred by Reilly to Pomfret from St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pawcatuck, where two men say that as boys they were sexually assaulted by Hebert. The diocese later paid settlements to the two men. Cote placed Hebert on a leave of absence in 2004 after the St. Michael’s incidents came to light.

Blair also wrote that he was deeply disappointed by a directive from the pope last month that U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore not vote on a proposal they had developed to ensure the accountability of bishops when it comes to the handling of sexual abuse by clergy. The pope wanted them to wait until the world’s bishops meet in February in Rome, which they agreed to do.

Blair said he remains “convinced that allegations against bishops ought to be handled by a review board primarily composed of lay people who have the expertise to properly assess and make a determination about the credibility of such accusations.”

Editor's Note: Our policy is to not allow comments on any story about sexual assault.

j.wojtas@theday.com

 

 

 

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