Abuse Victim's Brother to Meet Bishop

By Brian Scheid
Norwich (CT) Bulletin
March 19, 2002

A Brooklyn man whose brother committed suicide years after a parish priest in the Diocese of Norwich sexually abused him will meet with the Most Rev. Daniel A. Hart for the first time Friday.

Gene Michael Deary said he will ask the Norwich bishop to give his file on the Rev. Bernard W. Bissonnette - the priest he claims molested his brother - to the state police and the attorney generals' offices in Connecticut and New Mexico, where Bissonnette is now living.

Deary, who worked with the Diocese of Norwich to set up a sexual abuse policy, said Hart requested the meeting.

Deary wants Hart to turn over the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct before the diocese established a zero tolerance policy in 1991. That policy requires all accusations of sexual abuse committed by an employee of the diocese to be reported to law enforcement officials and the Department of Children and Families.

"If (Hart) is willing to turn over Bissonnette's name, which I'm not sure he's willing to do, then we'll set a precedent and we'll open the floodgates for all the names to be released," Deary said.

As the list of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country grows, the bishop of Norwich has refused to comment on whether he would review diocesan files on allegations or if he would make public the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct before 1991.

"I have no statement to make about that at this time," Hart said Monday.

Hart's silence on the issue differs from measures taken by many other church leaders across the country, such as reviewing files of all priests and deacons and submitting the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct to prosecutors.

In 1991, after battling mental illness for years, Deary's eldest brother Thomas Deary III killed himself. He was 44. Gene has blamed Bissonnette and the diocese, which he said protected the priest, for his brother's suicide.

Molestation claim

The Dearys claim Thomas was molested and raped several times in the early 1960s by Bissonnette, who was the priest at the family's parish, St. Mary Church in Putnam.

According to a file on Bissonnette maintained by the Rev. Ron Wolf, former chancellor of the Archdiocese of New Mexico, the priest was transferred to a monastic treatment center in Jemez Springs, N.M., once Deary's father reported the abuse to a diocesan monsignor.

Bissonnette later was transferred to nine parishes throughout New Mexico, Michigan and Minnesota and left each parish after accusations of child sexual abuse surfaced, according to Wolf's file. The file also shows Bissonnette was transferred to St. Mary in Putnam after he was accused of similar abuse while he served at parishes in Pawcatuck and Moosup.

The Boston Archdiocese, where Hart served as auxiliary bishop before coming to Norwich in 1995, also transferred priests after they were accused of sexual abuse against children. The Archdiocese recently turned over to authorities the names of more than 80 priests accused of molesting children since the 1960s.

On Thursday, in the Diocese of Bridgeport, the Most Rev. William Lori said he would review the files of all 285 priests and 86 deacons in the diocese to ensure that no clergy pose a threat to children.

In February, the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., which covers all of that state, gave prosecutors the names of 14 priests accused of sexual misconduct since 1962.

Court case

Hart would not comment on his planned meeting with Deary and said he did not know how the diocese handled accusations of clergy sexual abuse before 1991.

"I don't know," Hart said. "I wasn't here then."

Deary said it has been 40 years since Bissonnette molested and raped Deary's brother and the priest still has not been punished.

In December 1998, a New Mexico Court of Appeals found the Diocese of Norwich could be sued for damages by a New Mexico victim who alleges he was sexually abused by Bissonnette between 1966 and 1968. That is after the priest left the Norwich diocese but while he was on the diocesan payroll.

Based on New Mexico's "long-arm" statute, the appeals court found that the Norwich diocese was subject to the jurisdiction of New Mexico's courts in Bissonnette's case.

The diocese appealed the decision and the case is pending before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Deary said cases like those should compel the diocese to take responsibility and turn over the names of every priest accused of sexual abuse before the 1991 policy required them to.

"In the macro sense I want him to turn all the names over to authorities," Deary said. "If legislation should change with the statute of limitations, I want all these priests brought to justice."


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