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Former Priest Accused Of Abuse

Aug 10, 2002 | The Hartford Courant A Westbrook man has claimed in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested by his parish priest when he was a teenager.

Michael Nelligan's suit claims former priest Bruno Primavera, who now lives in New Britain, repeatedly abused him when he was a parishioner at St. Mark the Evangelist in Westbrook in 1977 and 1978.

Nelligan, 38, was 14 at the time.

According to the suit, Primavera abused Nelligan by "kissing him on the lips" and "touching and fondling" his genitalia, among other sexual actions. The assaults often occurred at the church, the suit claims.

The suit does not reveal specifically how Nelligan and Primavera came to be alone during those times, but does say that Primavera was acting as a chaperone during some of the assaults.

The suit, filed in Middlesex Superior Court in Middletown, names Primavera, former Norwich Bishop Daniel Reilly and the Diocese of Norwich as defendants.

"The conduct of the church was with reckless disregard for the minors of the parish," said Robert Reardon, the plaintiff's attorney. "They didn't have any programs. They didn't supervise these priests."

The suit charges that the Catholic Church was aware of previous complaints against Primavera but failed to react properly.

"The employer is responsible for the conduct of its employees," Reardon said.

The diocese eventually sent Primavera to a New Mexico treatment center for clergy involved in alleged sexual abuse acts, but after the alleged abuse of Nelligan.

Nelligan, who also has a home in Portland, Maine, continues to undergo therapy for the abuse, Reardon said. He is seeking an unspecified amount of money.

In a prepared statement, the diocese said "the complaint has been forwarded to counsel, who will be reviewing the matter. It is important that we respect the legal system and that we allow it to consider this matter in a fair and impartial manner, uninfluenced either by idle speculation or by any premature judgments."

The statement also said, "The diocese is committed to providing any help it can to victims of sexual misconduct in cooperation with civil authorities."

Primavera, 61, could not be reached Friday. Reardon said Primavera has left the priesthood.

Reilly was Norwich's bishop from 1975-1994 before becoming the bishop in Worcester, Mass.

"For 30 years, the Catholic Church has turned a blind eye," Reardon said. "It's time for them to admit they were wrong."

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