Diocese Faces Another Molestation Suit
Man Claims Priest Abused Him When He Was a Teen in Westbrook

By Day Staff Writer
The Day [New London CT]
August 10, 2002

Norwich - The Roman Catholic Church's Norwich Diocese is facing another lawsuit from a parishioner who says a priest sexually molested him years ago.

Michael Nelligan, of Westbrook, has filed a lawsuit in Middletown Superior Court alleging that Bruno Primavera, a priest at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Westbrook, molested him in 1977 and 1978, when Nelligan was a parishioner. The incidents took place when Nelligan was 14 and 15.

Nelligan in his lawsuit says the incidents occurred on and off church property, sometimes in Primavera's bedroom in the church rectory. He alleges that Primavera on numerous occasions kissed him, fondled his genitals, performed oral sex on him and masturbated him.

Besides the diocese and Primavera, Nelligan also names as defendants in his lawsuit former Norwich Bishop Daniel Reilly and St. Mark.

Diocese officials on Friday issued a statement cautioning against a public rush to judgment.

"it is important that we respect the legal system and that we allow it to consider this matter in a fair and impartial manner, uninfluenced by either idle speculation or by any premature judgments," diocese officials said in their statement. "The diocese is committed to providing any help it can to victims of sexual misconduct in cooperation with civil authorities."

Robert I. Reardon Jr., Nelligan's lawyer, said Friday that those assurances have come too late for his client.

Reardon said he believes the diocese and its leaders knew Primavera was sexually molesting boys in his parish but did nothing to stop it.

"When you see a priest involved with a 14-year-old boy, regularly inviting him to his bedroom, reasonable people would say, 'Wait a minute, there's something going on here,'" Reardon said. "But diocese officials didn't do that. They knew things were going on and they turned a blind eye to it."

Primavera could not be reached for comment Friday. The answering machine at his New Britain home states that it is unable to take messages "at this time."

Reardon said he spoke with Primavera this week to warn him he was being sued and to discuss the nature of the complaints. He said Primavera told him he left the priesthood 12 years ago after undergoing treatment in New Mexico.

"He said'1've taken care of my problems now,'" Reardon said.

A "John Doe" plaintiff who alleges he was sexually molested by Richard T. Buongirno beginning in 1990 when Doe was 9 years old also is suing the diocese. He claims Buongirno sexually assaulted him on several occasions while Buongirno was the pastor of St. Matthias Church in East Lyme.

After the diocese was made aware of an earlier sexual relationship between Buongirno and a teen-ager, Doe alleges, Buongirno was allowed to serve in several parishes, including Xavier High School in Middletown, where he again sexually molested Doe.

The lawsuits come at a time when the Catholic Church nationally is under fire from parishioners complaining of sexual misconduct by priests and the church's inability or refusal to oust wayward priests and protect their flocks.


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