Victim's Brothers Want Bishop Hart to Resign

By Brian Scheid
Norwich (CT) Bulletin
April 16, 2002

Norwich, CT - The Most Rev. Daniel A. Hart's refusal to give legal authorities the files of a former Putnam priest accused of molesting scores of boys across the country has driven two Windham County men to call for his resignation.

The men, who said their eldest brother, Thomas Deary III, killed himself decades after he was molested by the priest in the early 1960s at St. Mary's Church in Putnam, met for the second time with Hart Monday night at the Diocesan Chancery next to St. Patrick's Cathedral.

John and Gene Deary said the meeting, which came at Hart's request, accomplished little. They said they were frustrated by the bishop's refusal to punish priests accused of sexual abuse before the diocese's "zero tolerance" policy was established in 1991, shortly after their brother's suicide.

The Dearys said they asked Hart, in their first meeting in March, to turn over to state police and the office of the chief state's attorney the file of the Rev. Bernard W. Bissonnette, the priest who allegedly molested Thomas Deary. But Monday night, the Dearys said Hart told them he would not be turning over any files.

"There's a criminal that raped children living in New Mexico ... Hart is in a position to do something about it and he refuses to do it," Gene Deary said. "Is that the position you want to tell your parishioners you're taking?"

Jacqueline Keller, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said Hart felt the meeting was confidential and would not comment on it.

The Dearys said Hart, who is required to retire this summer when he turns 75, is unwilling to address realistically the clergy sex abuse scandal involving several priests such as Bissonnette. They said they want the diocese to bring in a leader who is willing to act.

"For 30 years, he's done the same thing and he thinks it works," Gene Deary said. "Hart needs to step down. This diocese needs someone who's willing to do something that works."

Church leaders like Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston and Cardinal Edward Egan of New York have come under fire recently for covering up sexual abuse committed by priests and transferring accused priests from parish to parish.

That controversial practice also took place in the Norwich diocese with Bissonnette, according to court documents.

According to a file on Bissonnette maintained by a former chancellor of the Archdiocese of New Mexico, Bissonnette was transferred to three separate churches in the Norwich diocese after allegations surfaced that he had been molesting boys.

Bissonnette was transferred to nine parishes in New Mexico, Michigan and Minnesota and was forced out of each one after accusations of sexual abuse surfaced, the file shows.

In 1998, a New Mexico Court of Appeals found the Norwich diocese could be sued for damages by a New Mexico victim who claims he was sexually abused by Bissonnette from 1966-68. The diocese appealed that decision and the case is pending before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Dearys said Hart told them Bissonnette is still being paid by the Catholic Church, but would not say whether he was on the Norwich diocese's payroll. The Dearys said Hart told them he was working with lawyers in the church to get Bissonnette laicized - annulling his position as a priest - which can only be done by the pope.


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