“A recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned.” Those were the words used by Msgr. William A. Genuario to explain the absence of Father Laurence Brett from his usual surroundings. Several diocesan officials gathered in 1964 to plan a course of action concerning an accusation of sexual abuse against Father Brett, chaplain at Sacred Heart University. They decided that, until Bishop Walter W. Curtis returned from Rome, Fr. Brett would be sent to a retreat house and if anyone should inquire as to his whereabouts the explanation would be “a recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned.”
Questioned about this by Attorney Paul Tremont, Msgr. Genuario conceded that it was a “poor choice of words.” He went on to say “I hate to think that we were going to tell a lie.” Attorney Tremont pressed him: “But you were going to tell a lie, weren’t you?” He denied that but acknowledged that it was not his responsibility to inform the faithful that Brett was away because of the charge of sexual abuse. He also admitted that he did not recall that the Diocese of Bridgeport ever informed parishioners that a priest was absent or was transferred because of complaints of sexual misconduct. Nor did he advise the police department that this criminal act had occurred at Sacred Heart University.
When Attorney Tremont asked Bishop Edward Egan about the “recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned” he said that he would not have used such dramatic language. He recognized that attempts to hide the facts by such devious words was “done all the time in other contexts. . . . But not done by me. . . . I would not do it. . . . If anyone were to ask, I would simply say they probably had no business to ask and I would just avoid the answer.”
Although Msgr. Genuario could not bring himself to confess that “a recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned” was a lie, one suspects that in his heart of hearts he knew that to be the case. Bishop Egan affirmed that he would not have used that language, but he seems to dismiss the thought that the Catholic faithful have a right to know that a predatory priest is in their midst. The statements of both men are typical of the diocesan effort to avoid public scandal by hiding evidence of sexual wrongdoing by priests. One wonders how their seminary professors of moral theology would evaluate their responses.
In 1997 Janet Bond Arterton, United States District Court Judge, ruled that the Diocese had fraudulently concealed its knowledge that Brett had molested children. By announcing that he had taken a leave of absence because of hepatitis, she ruled that the Diocese intentionally deceived the public. Honesty at last!
If you would like to hear more evidence from court documents concerning priestly sexual abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport, save the date, Saturday, November 13, and come to the Concert Hall at Norwalk City Hall at 12:30 p.m. for a dramatic presentation entitled “Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned!” Tickets are $20 and may be obtained in advance at http://www.votfbpt.org or at the door.