Alleged priest abuse victims call on diocese to set up compensation fund

A group of people who say they were abused by Diocese of Norwich priests but are barred from filing lawsuits due to the statute of limitations are calling on Bishop Michael Cote to meet with them and establish a victims compensation fund.

In an open letter to Cote, John Timothy McGuire of New London said that while Pope Francis recently has instructed bishops to seek out victims, he and the others have not heard from him.

“We need to meet. Not for your 'understanding' of what happened to us, or to hear you again say you are sorry for us being abused. We are all aware of your efforts against future abuse within the Norwich diocese, and the zero tolerance policies the diocese has in place now.”

Instead, McGuire said, the meeting “is for the diocese to directly address the need for justice and recompense.”

“We will settle for nothing less than a compensation program for us and all victims, not just for being sexually assaulted by its clergy but also for the role the diocese played in enabling the continuance of said crimes,” McGuire wrote, referring to the failure of the diocese to report accused priests under the state’s mandatory reporter law and transferring them to other parishes, where they sexually assaulted more children and teens.

McGuire told Cote that “your priests used the ultimate force to sexually molest children. God.”

The diocese did not respond to a request to comment about McGuire’s letter.

McGuire has alleged that on four occasions when he was an 8-year-old altar boy at St. Joseph’s Church in Noank, the late Rev. James Curry took him into the room next to the altar, where the priest undressed the boy and they fondled each other’s genitals. Afterwards, McGuire said he had to confess to Curry that he tempted the priest. On the fifth occasion, when McGuire told Curry he was not going to do it anymore, Curry allegedly told McGuire, “Then you’re not what God is looking for. You’re never going to be an altar boy.”

McGuire first spoke publicly about what happened to him this fall, prompted by a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found that 300 priests in that state sexually abused more than 1,000 identifiable children over 70 years. When McGuire tried to file a lawsuit against the diocese a little more than a decade ago, he learned that he had missed the filing deadline by three months. Alleged victims have until age 48 to file.

Curry also was accused of raping an 11-year-old girl at St. Mary’s Church in Groton in 1980 and 1981. The diocese settled a civil case filed by the girl and her mother, but prosecutors declined to file charges against him. Another lawsuit accused Curry of raping a girl at St. Mary’s on hundreds of occasions over an eight-year period beginning in 1961, when she was 8.

When Curry died in 1986, former Bishop of Norwich Daniel Reilly told mourners at his funeral Mass that “Certainly, the Lord placed heavy crosses on (Curry’s) shoulders in recent years.”

“We pray now that he will have eternal peace and light that he so richly deserves,” Reilly told attendees.

McGuire’s letter comes as the diocese says it is finalizing a list of clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual assault, which it intends to make public. Two weeks ago, the Archdiocese of Hartford released a list of 48 priests accused of sexually assault of minors, and how much it has paid out to victims.

A review by The Day shows that at least 28 priests and brothers affiliated with the Diocese of Norwich have been accused of sexually assaulting children and adults, 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, nor where that money has come from. It currently faces 23 lawsuits by alleged victims.

In the letter, McGuire said he, John Waddington, Ed Gilbert and a few other alleged victims do not want to hear claims that the diocese is having financial hardship.

“We are the ones with hardship. Some of us were unable to have families of our own because of the trauma. Others were called liars by their families when they spoke of being violated at church,” McGuire wrote to Cote. “Our lives have been governed by silently coping with the trauma, and with your denial of it. It’s commonly referred to as PTSD. We have lost more than you can ever compensate us for. We have paid the debt of the Norwich diocese with our bodies, our minds, our faith and our futures.”

“Although there may be victims willing to heal by way of forgiveness, a mass of reparation and/or a little help from Catholic Charities, we are not among them. We have separated from the church and have no use for those offerings,” McGuire wrote. “We seek true damage compensation. We are not to be appeased. A financial settlement will at least offset some of the damage we inflicted on ourselves at your behest. Set up a compensation find. Open the window for past victims. Release your files. Show everyone you ended this with your conscience, and not a court order. Please say you will meet, and come in good FAITH.”

j.wojtas@theday.com

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