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Settlement Made In Case of Former Norwich Priest

Jan 11, 2003 | Norwich Bulletin

A man who claims that a former Norwich priest molested him will receive a $600,000 settlement.

The Rev. Francis J. McManus, who once was a chaplain at St. Bernard High School in Montville, allegedly molested his victim in the early 1980s while teaching at Boston College High School in Boston. His former colleague at the school, the Rev. James Talbot, is accused of molesting 14 other students there. The victims all received settlements in varying amounts, totaling $5.8 million, according to the Boston Globe.

The cases were settled through mediation, with all 15 claimants represented by attorney Roderick Mac-Leish Jr. of Boston. The two high schools involved, the Jesuit New England province, the Diocese of Portland and several insurance carriers will settle costs of the settlements.

McManus served at St. Bernard after the alleged abuse took place in Boston. He was the school's chaplain from Aug. 1, 1982, to Aug. 14, 1983. He was appointed associate pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church on Elizabeth Street in Norwich in August 1983 and served there until the Society of Jesus transferred him to a Massachusetts parish.

As a Jesuit, McManus was under direct orders of the Society of Jesus and was not under the authority of the Norwich Diocese even while he served here.

The complaint by McManus' accuser, a Connecticut businessman, said McManus, who was a teacher at Boston College High School, took him on weekend trips, gave him alcohol and attempted to molest him while the two were house-sitting.

McManus made friends in the Norwich area while he served as a priest. He was involved in additional ministries in Norwich, including the Haitian Health Foundation, a group that visits Haiti providing medical care to the poor of that country. Norwich orthodontist Dr. Jeremiah Lowney has been involved in that organization for 20 years and befriended McManus during that time.

He describes him as a humble fellow who washed instruments, set up equipment and celebrated Mass for the Haitians and medical workers. No job was beneath McManus, he said.

Lowney recalled a story about McManus comforting a man at a wedding reception in Norwich. He was sitting at a table with a man who angrily said that he used to be a Catholic, but had lost his faith. McManus spent a lot of time talking to him after the reception. The conversation ended with the man confessing with McManus. Later that night, the man died unexpectedly.

"It was like a divine intervention," Lowney, who heard the story from a relative of the deceased, not McManus, said.

"Instead of saying, 'Hey, I'm sorry you're mad at the church, and going to the next table to have a drink' the way a lot of people would have done, he took the time to help this man who was hurting," Lowney said. "He was good at that. Whatever happened in Boston, I don't know about. I never asked him."

McManus could not be reached for comment.

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