Diocese explains why six men were omitted from list of accused

The Diocese of Norwich offered an explanation Tuesday of why six priests and brothers, whom The Day has identified as being accused of sexually assaulting minors, were not included on the list of 43 names released Sunday.

The group includes Christian Brothers J. Paul McGlade and Donald P. Alford, and priests Eugene Solega, James Liberty, Donat Jette and Donald Petraitis.

Diocesan spokesman Wayne Gignac said that in order to be included on the list, the victim had to be under 18, there needed to be a formal report made to the diocese ("please refer to the January 7th letter that went out to parishioners regarding the reporting process") and the allegation “needed to have substance.”

That latter was defined as an allegation in which the accused pleaded guilty or no contest or was found guilty in criminal court of any incident of sexual misconduct with a minor; an allegation that was investigated and determined to be reasonable, plausible, probable and bearing the semblance of truth; or an allegation that was corroborated with other evidence or another source and/or been acknowledged or admitted to by the accused.

In Solega’s case, Bishop Michael Cote and diocesan investigator Richard Wheeler met with Ed Gilbert at the Chester office of Gilbert’s therapist, Regina Walsh, in April 2018. Before that meeting, Walsh said she had sent a letter to the diocese, Cote and Wheeler outlining Solega’s alleged abuse of Gilbert, now 59. Gilbert alleges that as a 13-year-old altar boy at St. John’s Church in Old Saybrook, he was molested by Solega, now deceased. She asked Cote to meet with her and Gilbert and he agreed.

During that 90-minute meeting, Gilbert told Cote what Solega had done to him and the impact it’s had on his life. Gilbert told The Day last fall that Cote apologized to him seven or eight times during the meeting.

But Walsh said Tuesday that neither Cote nor Wheeler told her or Gilbert, at the meeting or at any other time, that they had to file the formal report mentioned in the letter to parishioners. Gilbert is not only not a parishioner but does not attend church. Walsh said she thought her letter was a formal complaint.

Gilbert who only revealed the molestation to family, a few close friends and Walsh a little more than a year ago after his mother, a devout Catholic, died, is prohibited from suing the diocese because the statute of limitations has expired.

Jette and Petraitis were accused of sexually assaulting an altar boy at St. Mary’s Church in Putnam in the 1960s. Alleged victim Charles Vigeant told The Day in 2002 that he had sent a certified letter to the diocese and Petraitis at the end of April of that year. That letter was sent almost 17 years before the Jan. 7, 2019, letter that Gignac said went out to parishioners regarding the reporting process.

Petraitis denied the allegations. Bishop Daniel Hart also apologized for waiting a month to report the allegation in violation of the state’s mandatory reporting law; he was never charged by police.

McGlade and Alford are named in 22 recently filed lawsuits against the diocese and former Bishop Daniel Reilly by young men who say they were fondled, sodomized and raped while attending the Academy at Mount Saint John in Deep River from 1986 to 1996. Gignac said McGlade and Alford were not included on the list because they were Christian Brothers and not clergy members (priests, deacons or bishops). Reilly served as the president of the school’s board of trustees during the period of the alleged assaults.

Liberty was accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman who had gone to him in the 1980s after her brother died. Liberty worked as a marriage and family counselor with Catholic Family Services in Norwich. Hart, who called the actions of Liberty “evil” in one media report, apologized to the woman for her suffering in a 2002 letter. The woman, Diane Smith, had written to Hart in 2002 telling him about the alleged sexual assault by Liberty, who died in 1995.

Another priest not on the list because his victim was older than 18 is Rev. Gregory Mullaney, the current pastor at St. Agnes Church in Niantic.

Last fall, Deacon Mark King, who served with Mullaney at Sacred Heart Church in Groton, told The Day that Mullaney tried to sexually assault him on a 2006 trip to Rome. King gave a sworn statement to the diocese about the incidents within hours upon returning home. This fall, Mullaney acknowledged the incidents occurred but the diocese said he remains a priest in good standing.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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