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Bishop Forwards Complaint

May 8, 2002 | The Hartford Courant

Bishop Daniel A. Hart has forwarded a sexual abuse complaint against two former priests of the Norwich diocese to state child welfare authorities, the diocese said Tuesday.

Hart acknowledged that he received a copy of the complaint in early April, but did not notify the state Department of Children and Families then because the letter was addressed not to him, but to one of the alleged abusers.

DCF officials, who had criticized Hart on Monday for not turning over the complaint, said they were unable to determine whether they had received it Tuesday.

The complainant, former Putnam resident Charles Vigeant, said he was abused by two priests about 40 years ago, when he was between the ages of 6 and 9. One of the priests died 10 years ago; the other now lives in Chicago.

State law that requires members of the clergy to report all allegations of abuse within 24 hours of being notified. The fine for not doing so is $500.

"I did not believe that DCF expected me to report allegations addressed to someone else concerning a deceased diocesan priest and a religious order priest living in another state," Hart said in a statement released by the diocese. "I want to assure DCF that I shall make sure that any allegations concerning abuse of a child will continue to be reportedBishop to them as well as to the State's Attorney as mandated by law and Norwich Diocesan policy."

Vigeant, who is now 47 and lives in Texas, sent a certified letter to the Chicago priest on April 1. The priest has denied the allegations.

A copy of the letter was sent by certified mail to Hart, who has been bishop of the Norwich diocese since 1995. The letter, which Hart termed "quasi-anonymous," did not include a phone number or return address, Keller said.

DCF has said it wants to be notified of all allegations, regardless of how old they are.

Vigeant's complaint cannot be prosecuted because the state's five-year statute of limitations on sex abuse cases has expired.


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