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Church Sex Abuse Scandal Hits Hard At Home

Dec 29, 2002 | The Stamford Advocate

The sex abuse scandal that tore apart Roman Catholic dioceses across the country hit hard locally.

Eight priests in the Bridgeport Diocese left their pulpits or positions this year because of sexual misconduct accusations. Some did so voluntarily, others were removed.

The eight included the Rev. Sherman Gray, pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Stamford; the Rev. Albert McGoldrick, pastor of St. Paul Church in Greenwich; the Rev. Robert Morrissey, pastor of St. Mary Church in Ridgefield; the Rev. Vincent Veich, co-pastor of St. Benedict-Our Lady of Montserrat Church in Stamford; the Rev. William Donovan, pastor of Holy Family Church in Fairfield and former assistant pastor of St. Leo Parish in Stamford; the Rev. Albert Bietighofer, assistant pastor of St. Andrew Church in Bridgeport; Monsignor Gregory Smith, 60, director of the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Studies at Sacred Heart University; and the Rev. Stanley Koziol, 69, assistant pastor of St. Mark Church in Stratford.

New information arose about old sex-abuse cases, including that of former Stamford priest Laurence F.X. Brett.

Hartford Courant reporters found the onetime fugitive Brett living secretly on a Caribbean island to avoid prosecutors. In August, Bishop William Lori of the Bridgeport Diocese admonished two priests for withholding information about Brett, the Rev. Gerald T. Devore of St. Maurice Church in Stamford and the Rev. David W. Howell of St. Joseph Church in Norwalk.

Throughout the year, parishioners expressed shock and frustration. In response, a local chapter of the reform group Voice of the Faithful started meeting in Fairfield County.

Priests shared the torment. One of the accused, Bietighofer, killed himself at a Catholic psychiatric hospital weeks after being confronted with misconduct allegations.

In response to the crisis, Lori sought several reforms.

In April, Lori appointed members of the new Sexual Misconduct Review Board and reviewed personal files of clergy in the diocese. The diocese also agreed to a request from the state Department of Children and Families to immediately report all allegations it receives of sexual misconduct with a minor.

In October, the diocese announced it was working with a law firm toward resolution of more than 30 claims of sexual abuse by 10 inactive priests. Three of the accused are deceased.

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