Two Connecticut priests, temporarily stripped of their duties after failing to disclose the location of a priest accused of molesting more than two dozen youths, publicly apologized this weekend to the bishop of the Bridgeport Diocese, fellow priests and members of their parishes.
The Rev. David W. Howell of St. Joseph Parish in South Norwalk, and the Rev. Gerald T. Devore of St. Maurice Parish in Stamford read prepared statements at weekend Masses at their respective churches.
Devore also announced his resignation from St. Maurice, saying he has asked Bishop William E. Lori for some time off and planned to ask Lori for a new parish in the future.
Both priests’ prepared statements said their dealings with the Rev. Laurence F.X. Brett, after he vanished from Baltimore in 1993, were “solely conversational” and promised him “no benefit of any kind.” Brett had been accused of molesting more than two dozen children and young men before his disappearance.
He was living secretly on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten in August, when a story in The Courant disclosed his location. He since has disappeared again.
“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 added that the decision to leave the parish was his alone. 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.”
Howell resumed his full duties as priest at St. Joseph this weekend after he and Devore returned from a “period of penance” imposed by Lori on Aug. 31.
At the time, Lori said he was “gravely disappointed” that the two pastors failed to tell their superiors in the Bridgeport diocese about Brett’s whereabouts.
During their absence, Howell and Devore 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 action taken by the diocese is considered 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 added Sunday that a thorough investigation by the diocese revealed that Howell’s 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, in his prepared statement to his congregation, said spending many hours in prayer and reflection in a monastic retreat outside Connecticut was helpful. He apologized for appearing to be insensitive to the 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. 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.