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Diocese: 32 Priests Have Been Accused of Abuse

Feb 16, 2004 | Stamford Advocate The Diocese of Bridgeport has received 109 allegations of sexual abuse involving 32 priests since its 1953 inception, according to figures released yesterday.

Of those priests, 23 have been publicly identified in reaching settlements with sexual abuse victims, according to the diocese. Seven of the remaining nine priests are dead; two were visiting from other dioceses.

The majority of the abuse was alleged to have happened between 1960 and 1980. The 32 priests, 2.5 percent of the total number of priests in the diocese in the same time period, were the subjects of 109 allegations from 107 people, according to the report.

"No priest in active ministry today in Fairfield County poses a threat of any kind to a child or young person," Bishop William Lori said in a statement yesterday.

The statistics, which the diocese compiled to comply with a recent church mandate to make a nationwide accounting of abuse claims and costs, will be included in a national study conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The church-commissioned study is expected to be finished later this month. Some bishops have begun releasing local figures.

"As we move forward, we need to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, if only to learn and be more confident in the future, to prevent these things from ever happening again to the best of our ability," said Joseph McAleer, a diocese spokesman. "We feel that we're being proactive. We're setting an example for the community at large."

Yesterday's announcement came four months after the Bridgeport Diocese reached a $21 million settlement with 40 people abused as children by priests. Eleven of the 16 priests named in the settlement had worked in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien or Norwalk at some point.

Lawyers who represented the victims in the settlement could not be reached for comment yesterday.

McAleer yesterday said he was uncertain how the diocese, which includes 87 parishes and serves more than 363,000 Catholics, compared with others in number of incidents or priests implicated.

Many of the alleged incidents were in the 1970s, but were only recently reported, according to the diocese. More than half of allegations were made in 2000 or later.

Church officials also are required to release details about financial settlements to resolve abuse claims. Bridgeport officials said they have paid $37.7 million in settlements. Officials said in October that all prior settlements totaled about $16.7 million.

Some advocacy groups continued to question the diocese's response to the scandal, however, as well as the announcement's timing on Presidents Day weekend.

Members of Voice of the Faithful, a lay group that has called for reform within the church and legal system, were among the skeptics.

"I hope for the best, but what I have seen leads me to regard what they say with a grain of salt," said Tom Malarkey, president of the Greenwich chapter of Voice of the Faithful.

Malarkey is a parishioner of Greenwich's St. Paul Church, where the Rev. Albert McGoldrick resigned in December 2002 amid sexual abuse allegations.

Church leaders asked clergy to mention the survey and the diocese's response to sexual misconduct at Mass yesterday.

The Rev. Nicholas Calabro of Greenwich's St. Roch Church added a summary on yesterday's development to the parish's announcements read at Mass.

Calabro quoted Pope John Paul II and Lori, telling parishioners that results of the ongoing study would reinforce the church's commitment to providing a safe environment.

"There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young," Calabro wrote, quoting the pope.

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