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Two Priests Apologize For Not Disclosing Location Of Accused Colleague

Oct 20, 2002 | AP

Two priests in the Bridgeport diocese publicly apologized this weekend for keeping secret the location of a fellow priest accused of molesting more than two dozen youths, The Hartford Courant reported Monday.

The Revs. David Howell and Gerald Devore, who had been temporarily stripped of their duties, read prepared statements at their churches during weekend Masses, apologizing to Bridgeport Bishop William Lori, their colleagues and parish members.

Devore also announced that he was resigning from St. Maurice Parish in Stamford. He asked the bishop for some time off and planned to request a transfer to another parish in the future.

Lori disciplined the two priests for failing to disclose the location of the Rev. Laurence Brett. Howell and Devore had been in contact with Brett, who vanished in 1993 and was found by the Courant this summer on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten. Brett has disappeared again, the newspaper reported.

In their statements, both priests said their dealings with Brett were "solely conversational" and promised him "no benefit of any kind."

"I am guilty of keeping the whereabouts of a sexual offender to myself," Devore told congregants at St. Maurice. "With such behavior, I could have enabled a sexual offender to harm others."

He said it was his own decision to leave the parish. Devore, 65, has been pastor of St. Maurice since 1985.

"I am also guilty of distancing myself from my bishop, my brother priests, and my parish family in my public responsibility to establish a safe environment for people of all ages," he said. "It was never my intention to be callous to anyone.

"I ask you to understand that I knew Laurence Brett and reached out to him as a friend," he added. "I did so without understanding the harm and pain it might cause."

Devore and Howell, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Norwalk, recently completed a period of penance imposed by Lori in August. Howell resumed his full duties as priest at St. Joseph this weekend.

Lori said in August that he was "gravely disappointed" that the two pastors failed to tell their superiors in the diocese about Brett's whereabouts.

Devore and Howell engaged in serious prayer, acts of penance and guided reflection on their responsibility as priests and pastors for the well-being of the church, Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the Bridgeport Diocese said Sunday. The diocese considers the punishment the harshest possible under church law.

Both priests also received additional training on the prevention of sexual abuse and on the mandated reporting responsibilities of clergy and lay employees of the diocese.

McAleer said Sunday that a diocese investigation determined that Howell and Devore's contacts with Brett "were of a pastoral nature, offering only verbal support to a brother priest."

"There was no financial support of any kind," McAleer said Sunday. "Bishop Lori is confident that Father Howell now understands more fully his wrongdoing and is recommitted to upholding the diocese's zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse. While Father Devore has expressed remorse for his wrongdoing, he has decided that it is time for a period of rest and a new assignment."

Howell told St. Joseph parishioners that the period of prayer and reflection was helpful. He apologized for appearing to be insensitive to victims of sexual abuse. Howell, 60, has been pastor of St. Joseph Parish since 1986.

"What I did or failed to do arose out of mistaken sense of fidelity to a person who had at one time been a brother priest," Howell said. "At no time did I anticipate that my occasional contacts with Laurence Brett would be a cause of harm to anyone.

"In acting out of a mistaken sense of fidelity, I made a prudential judgment that was wrong," he said. "I deeply regret this failure of prudence on my part and any harm it may have caused anyone."

He also acknowledged that he had denied to a reporter that he had contact with Brett.

Effective Nov. 2, the Rev. Albert Pinciaro will become the new pastor of St. Maurice Parish. Pinciaro currently serves as the assistant pastor at St. Philip Parish in Norwalk.

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