Six more priests who served in Norwich Diocese on new sexual assault list

The Archdiocese of Hartford on Tuesday released a list of 48 priests who have been “credibly accused” of sexual assault or been the subject of legal settlements, including six who served in or were members of the Norwich Diocese.

The Hartford Archdiocese also said it has paid out $50.6 million in settlements to the victims of some of the 48 priests.

The release of information came as the Diocese of Norwich prepares to release its own list of credibly accused priests and deacons, something it has said it would do by the end of the month. The Norwich Diocese did not respond to questions Tuesday about when and how would release its list, the information it would contain and whether it would include information about settlements paid to alleged victims.

A review by The Day shows that at least 28 priests and brothers affiliated with the Diocese of Norwich have been accused of sexual assaulting children and adults in the diocese, according to lawsuits, depositions, sworn statements and statements from alleged victims.

The Norwich Diocese has never detailed how much it has paid out in settlements to alleged victims and where that money has come from. The figure is known to be at least $7 million, which is the total of settlements The Day has reported over the past three decades.

The list released by the Archdiocese of Hartford includes the names of 36 archdiocesan priests who have been credibly accused of sexual assault or been the subject of settlements since the founding of the diocese. It includes their date of ordination, list of assignments, date of death and date of removal from ministry, if applicable, and their current status. It also list six priests belonging to other dioceses and six priests who belong to religious orders, all of whom have served in the Hartford Archdiocese.

The Hartford Archdiocese also has hired retired Connecticut Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina to review its files to identify any additional priests who should be on the list.

The list released on Tuesday does not detail what the priests are accused of doing nor which parish or parishes the abuse allegedly took place.

The report states that since 1990 — documentation on settlements before then was not always available — the archdiocese has paid out $50.6 million in settlements in connection with 142 allegations against 29 archdiocesan priests and three from other dioceses. Ninety-eight percent of the alleged incidents took place before 1990, mostly in the 1970s. The report provides only a summary of payouts and does not list the names of the individual priests or how much was paid to settle claims for each of them. One unidentified priest was responsible for 20 lawsuits and $10.7 million in payments. A total of $26.1 million was covered by insurance, while $24.5 million came from the archdiocese's unrestricted general reserve fund. The archdiocese also spent $4 million to recover insurance reimbursements.

Archbishop Blair's apology

In releasing the list Tuesday, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair stressed that there are no archdiocesan priests currently in ministry who have credible allegations of child sexual abuse asserted against them. He added that in the last 20 years, the two archdiocesan priests accused of sexually assaulting minors were criminally charged and prosecuted.

“I also repeat what I have said on an earlier occasion, that I ask — the Church must ask — for forgiveness from those who have been victims of child sexual abuse by clergy, and from their parents, siblings, and friends. Healing and reconciliation continue to be an essential but not easy goal, given the terrible effects that these sins and crimes can cause in the lives of victims, to whom the Church owes the deepest expression of sorrow and apology,” Blair wrote.

He added that his almost 20 years of being a bishop have been overshadowed by the “sin and scandal of sexual abuse and its devastating effect” on victims and their families, the morale of priests, the faith of Catholics and the general public.

“It is a cause of profound sorrow and of soul searching for me that we bishops, the Church’s pastors, have often failed to grasp the spiritual and moral devastation that results from sexual abuse, either in a misguided attempt to ‘save’ an abuser’s vocation or to shield the Church from scandal,” Blair said.

He said he firmly believes in the words of Pope St. John Paul, that “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”

"All the more so for bishops, several of whom have been identified as offenders and have been removed since 2002. ...” he added.

Blair, who is listed in the report as being among the five men who have served as archbishops of Hartford, did not mention if any of them had transferred priests accused of sexual assault. In Norwich, retired Bishop Daniel Reilly transferred priests suspected of sexual assault — in the three states where he was assigned — to new parishes where some often abused more children.

Blair said three Masses will be “offered in reparation to God for the grievous sin of sexual abuse by clergy,” and the archdiocese will organize support groups for victims and their families and will remain committed to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to cases of sexual assault and protecting children.

Six priests with ties to Norwich Diocese

On the list were six priests with ties to the Diocese of Norwich:

Edward Reardon, who was ordained in 1931 and served an assistant pastor at St. Mary and St. Joseph churches in New London. He died in 1991 before a claim was made against him in 2004. 

Joseph Buckley, who was ordained in 1932 and served as an assistant pastor at St. Agnes Church in Niantic. He died in 1975 before a claim was made against him in 2003. 

Felix Maguire, who was ordained in 1950 and had his second assignment as assistant pastor at St. Patrick Church in Mystic. He was removed from ministry in 1992 and died in 2008. 

Peter Mitchell, who was ordained in 1951, had his first assignment at St. Patrick Church in Mystic. He as removed from ministry in 2001 and died in 2006.

Reardon, Buckley, Maguire and Mitchell were all priests with the Hartford archdiocese.

John B. Ramsay was a priest with the Diocese of Norwich who volunteered and taught religious instruction classes at St. Adalbert Church in Enfield from 1978 to '79. He died in 1994 before a claim was made against him. The report does not list his other assignments by the Norwich Diocese.

Also on the list is the late Rev. Bruno Primavera. Reilly allowed him to come to the diocese in 1978 despite a letter from church officials in Toronto warning Reilly that Primavera tended to seek out the companionship of teenage boys on a one-to-one basis and that he had been seeing a psychiatrist about the issue.

Three members of the five-member diocesan committee in Norwich that reviews potential priests recommended to Reilly that he not allow Primavera to work in the diocese.

Nevertheless, Reilly assigned Primavera to a church in Westbrook, where he allegedly molested Michael Nelligan, then a 15-year-old altar boy, on a number of occasions. After allegations in 1979 in Westbrook of theft and homosexuality and Primavera’s denial that he had any inappropriate contact with young boys, Reilly transferred Primavera to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in New London.

There, Primavera allegedly molested a 15-year-old boy named Michael Long in the rectory. Reilly did not call police about the New London case, even after Long’s mother complained to the church’s pastor that her son had told her “something bad” happened with the priest. The pastor in turn alerted Reilly. The day before Mrs. Long’s complaint in February 1980, Waterford police told Reilly they had found Primavera in a “compromising position” with teenage boys in a car.

After Primavera was in New London for just a few months, Reilly sent the priest back to Toronto for “less than satisfactory performance.” While he did not call Toronto with details of what occurred, he has said he thought another diocesan official did.

The diocese assured Mrs. Long that Primavera was being thrown out of the priesthood. Instead, the priest went back to Canada, where he received psychological treatment at the Southdown Treatment Center.

The archdiocesan report states Primavera also was removed from the faculty of Northwest Catholic High School after two months in 1981 and then “resided and helped out” until 1983 at St. Adalbert in Enfield. He left the Hartford Archdiocese in 1983.

He later went on to serve at several other parishes before he was arrested for molesting boys at a military school in New Mexico in 1990 and was sentenced to four years in prison. That year, the Toronto Diocese removed him from ministry. He died in 2006. The Norwich Diocese paid Nelligan and Long $2 million and $1.1 million, respectively.

The Most Rev. Michael Cote, the current bishop of Norwich, not Reilly, sent Mrs. Long a written apology on behalf of the diocese. It apologized for Primavera’s actions but not those of Reilly.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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