Bridgeport Diocese Still in News

The Diocese of Bridgeport and sexual abuse scandal activity are unfortunately in the news again. Tremont and Sheldon filed a lawsuit against Father Charles Stubbs and the Diocese according to a release on March 17, 2011. It is claimed that Bishop Walter Curtis had prior notice of Reverend Stubbs behavior but, still continued to allow him unfettered access to children in the Diocese.

On March 20, 2011 the CT Post recognized the nearly ten years of service that Bishop William Lori has provided to the Diocese, in an editorial, noting “the challenges of…the overarching scandal of pedophile priests”. The editors continued, “Under his leadership there has been no continued hiding of offenders through reassignment, and he created Safe Environment policies to protect children in the diocese.” Some would explain this “zero tolerance” approach as an outgrowth of the Dallas meeting of Bishops in 2002 to deal with the revelations of the Boston Archdiocese. However, a review of material released in the Rosado documents by Bishop Lori in 2009 would show that there was tolerance for multiple communication lapses and secret practices of previous Bishops who have not been criticized during Lori’s decade, nor who have suffered consequences.

Had the previous Bishops acted in the interests of the children and their families who reported abuse, priests would have not been transferred to other parishes or out of the Diocese. Priests sent for treatment of “sexually inappropriate or criminal behavior” would have had a higher standard of behavior reported by a healing institution than “the priest completed the treatment program”. Treatment professionals were not routinely recorded as saying that priests completing programs presented “no further risk of sexual abuse”. How concerned were the Bishops and the Monsignors who worked with the troubled clergy in effective dealing with the heinous behavior? How concerned were they with healing families with compassion? Where has Bishop Lori commented on this tragic history created by his episcopal predecessors?

And what about Bishop Lori’s uneven handling of priest “offenders”? Some priests have been reduced to the lay status. No public ministry. No appearance in priestly street garb. No pretence of being a priest one would think. But if such a man is living in Bridgeport today, or in Dublin, would it not be fair for the community to be aware that at one time the Diocese judged him to be unfit to continue ministry, because of his offenses? Why not report the name and location of that person today on the Diocesan site? The prime reason so few priests faced criminal charges, court trial and conviction is that Bishops all over the world covered their behavior until most were well beyond criminal “statutes of limitation”. But a sexual offender of youth if credibly accused and acknowledged by the Diocese does not have to be listed as a “sexual offender.” How safe is the environment where these men are living today?

Now if such a man is living in the Bridgeport region and the Catholic Directory of priests lists him as retired and though he is not assigned to a parish, he does on occasion appear in public in priest garb. Has he been reduced to lay status? If not, why not? Has his public ministry been suspended? Does the Diocese web site have a duty to provide such info in a true spirit of Safe Environment? And if he believes that he is innocent and a priest of integrity, what are his rights under Canon Law?

On March 22, 2011 the CT Post in a front page article reports that the diocese has settled a suit from 2009. Brian Wallace comments that the Church does not believe it committed any wrongdoing but “it’s just too expensive to continue to defend against this frivolous lawsuit brought by out-of state lawyers…trolling for lawsuits across the country.” Bishop Lori addressed this case brought by a Connecticut attorney who lives in the Diocese of Bridgeport on behalf of the Estate of Michael Powel to parishes across the county in December 2009. He called it the “Lawn Man Liability Suit” failing to appreciate that behavior of a 40 year worker on Church grounds would be considered a Church responsibility. Isn’t that why all persons involved in employment, volunteer activity, ministry of any kind and indeed, those who entered a Church to repair a roof or basement are required to take Safe Environment course work? All need to be aware of what constitutes predatory behavior according to risk managers. But what Diocesan course will make us aware of the aberrant management behavior that allowed the predatory behavior to persist for so long?

Brian Wallace failed to tell readers that the Diocese retains its own specialist out-of-state law firm. I assume that “trolling” is not permitted in Colorado but I also assume that Diocesan lawyers, from Connecticut and other states are paid. Perhaps fishing with flies or casting nets, as Christ directed, is different. The Diocese has never provided the extent of its legal expenses. As a matter of fact the Diocese has put out no comprehensive audited financial reports on its site, and has failed to update even three limited reports since June 30, 2008. Many people have reduced their giving to the Church or stopped it totally.

In the case of Michael Powel, Monsignor Bronkiewicz, who was involved in clergy supervision for years, kept silent though he knew that “the Lawnman” had admitted child sexual abuse. Did he not believe that safe environment trumps power abuse any day? Bridgeport has some way to go before they can be considered a model Safe Environment program. Open, accountable and transparent process and practice is not yet evident in too many areas.

John Marshall Lee,
30 Beacon Street
Bridgeport, CT 06605
203-259-9642

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4 Responses to “Bridgeport Diocese Still in News”

  1. Helen McGonigle Says:

    The case of Michael Powel against the Diocese of Bridgeport was brought in 2006 by me, a Connecticut resident and lawyer. I am not an out of state attorney as the Diocese would lead the public to believe. It was after litigating the case for 3 years against the Diocese and one of the state’s largest law firms, while being buried in paper, that there was the need for additional counsel to represent the interests of Michael Powel. The Diocese, even though it was represented by a large team of lawyers, nevertheless also hired three Colorado attorneys to handle the defense. So why does the Diocese take issue with the need for out of state lawyers when it too hired out of state lawyers, probably at significant costs since it was paying them by the hour? Mr. Powel had already obtained a judgment of close to $10 Million dollars against one of his perpetrators, Carlo D. Fabbozzi, who worked at parishes in the Diocese spanning 40 years. The fact that the Diocesan spokesperson has misrepresented this case to the public instills absolutely no confidence in its ability to protect the children of today. Where is the transparency? Why didn’t Bishop Lori name those accused by Michael Powel? (eg. Carlo D. Fabbozzi and Fr. Joseph Gorekci)? Instead they choose to smear and discredit Michael Powel, who in the end did the public in Fairfield County a great service. Michael Powel called attention to the many abusers who were cycled by Bishops through St. Theresa’s parish in Trumbull, despite the negative campaigning by Bishop Lori. Michael Powel passed away before his lawsuit was concluded but remains a champion in what he did to protect children. I can’t say that of Bishop Lori though.

  2. Some one once abused Says:

    I could not agree more with John. The Catholic Church has and continues to handle this disaster as one of denial. I was raised Catholic and converted to Congregationalism becasue it makes much more sense. It is a bottoms up versus a tops down religion. I was abused as a alter boy and find it very disturbing how the Cahtholic Church continues to not accept responsiblility and has let this linger on for more than 15 years. It continues to kick the can down the road. I thought the meeting of Bisops 10 years ago solved the problem. What has happened in Bridgeport and Philadelphia recently indicates that it did not.

  3. tomkelly317@aol.com Says:

    Once again the Diocese tries to hide behind their Cassocks and Surpluses.
    The untoward comments about this case by Brian Wallace and the Lori’s words read from his “Billy Pulpit” clearly show that the Diocese of Bridgeport does not practice what they preach. The should take down their sanctimonious billboards heralding a season of reconciliation. Bishop Lori should think of these actions as he is making his Easter Duty.

    God may Delay but He does not Deny!

  4. Insider Info Says:

    What goes on in Catholic Church and its many communities will turn your hair white in a second. And it is not better, hate to say that. There is an entrenched mentality the [abusive] authority can do no wrong – this has not gone away. Charles Stubbs was defrocked some time ago. He enjoyed protection of the Catholic Church all along – financial, etc. More than just a food and shelter type of thing.

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