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Diocesan investigator pledges to speak with anyone with information about priest sexual abuse

Norwich -- The retired state Superior Court judge leading the Diocese of Norwich’s investigation into the extent of sexual abuse of children by priests assigned to the diocese said Monday that his team's goal is to “speak with as many persons as possible who have information relevant to our investigation.”

Michael E. Riley, made the written comments in response to questions posed by The Day.

On Sunday, the diocese revealed to the region’s Catholics that it has spent the past 13 months investigating abuse dating back to 1953 as part of its “Clerical Sexual Abuse Accountability Investigation.”

The Day had asked Riley if he is interviewing the many men and women who say they were sexually assaulted by diocesan priests, attorneys who have represented some of them in civil cases or if he is interviewing retired Bishop of Norwich Daniel Reilly, who documents show transferred priests who had complaints made against them for sexually assaulting children and teens to other parishes.

Riley said investigators would speak with people whether they are survivors of abuse, alleged perpetrators of abuse or diocesan administrators.

He said they also plan to reach out to attorneys who have represented victims requesting they encourage their clients to speak with them and will also reach out to survivor groups for their input.

“We encourage any survivor or witness to contact us through the toll-free hotline we have established, and we appreciate the media’s support in publicizing the hotline and reporting website so that our investigation can be as thorough as possible. The diocese has committed that we will have unrestricted access to all of its current and former staff, priests and administrators including bishops. We will make those judgments based on the details of the investigation as it unfolds,” he wrote.

The diocese said anyone who has information that can assist Riley in the investigation can make a report by calling toll-free: (844) 311-2111 (English); (800) 216-1288 (Spanish), or by visiting: www.lighthouse-services.com/norwichdiocese.

Riley said there is no date set for the release of the final report as it will depend largely on the scope of this latest phase of the investigation.

Riley is a member of the Internal Investigations and Alternative Dispute Resolution practice at Pullman & Comley, a Connecticut-based legal firm.

The diocese said Riley and his team began their investigation in October 2019 and have undertaken a “comprehensive analysis and review of claims of clerical sexual abuse of minors, the diocese’s knowledge of such abuse and its response to allegations and information presented to it concerning the alleged clergy abuse.”

The diocese said Riley has been given “complete and unrestricted access to all diocesan files, records, and archives dating from the establishment of the diocese in 1953 to the present along with the opportunity to interview diocesan clergy and administrators with information relevant to the investigation.”

“It is in a spirit of accountability and transparency that I have invited Judge Riley and the team from Pullman & Comley to conduct this investigation,” Bishop of Norwich Michael Cote said Sunday’s announcement. “I look forward to their report and I believe that their investigation will help to clarify the thorough work done last year in compiling and publishing the list of clergy with substantive allegations involving sexual abuse of a minor.”

The investigation follows the diocese’s release in February 2019 of the names of 43 priests who have served in the diocese since its founding in 1953 and have had “allegations of substance” made against them regarding the sexual abuse of minors.

The list, though, did not include what parishes the priests served at, what they were accused of doing and whether the diocese reported them to police or the state Department of Children and Families, which clergy have been required to do under the state’s mandatory reporter law since 1971. It also did not include six priests accused of sexually assaulting children and adults, that The Day has identified in its reporting.

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