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Defrocked Priest Housed by SHU President

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post
April 20, 2006

A former Catholic priest accused of molesting young boys in the late 1960s and early 1980s while a priest in the Bridgeport Diocese has been living in a New York state home owned by Sacred Heart University President Anthony Cernera.

The diocese this week, for the first time, revealed that it has defrocked the accused ex-priest, Charles W. Stubbs.

Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori said in April 2002 that Stubbs had been suspended five years earlier after he admitted molesting a boy in the 1980s. After the story appeared in the Connecticut Post, four other men came forward and said Stubbs had also molested them as children.

Stubbs was not criminally charged in connection with the alleged incidents; at the time, the statute of limitations for sexual assault was five years. After suspending Stubbs, the diocese refused to reveal his whereabouts.

However, David Clohessy, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he recently received a call from a "good Catholic parishioner" complaining that she'd seen Stubbs at the altar during a Mass in Elmira, N.Y.

When he was suspended, Stubbs lost the right to act as a priest, although he was still being financially supported by the Bridgeport diocese.

A woman who picked up the phone recently at the Cerneras' vacation home in nearby Pine City, N.Y., and identified herself as Ruth Cernera, the president's wife, answered affirmatively when a reporter asked whether "Father Charles Stubbs" was living at their home. She would not comment further.

Neither Anthony Cernera nor Sacred Heart University officials returned phone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

"It calls into question Cernera's judgment, and I can't help but wonder if he is sheltering a pedophile at his home, whether he is sheltering any pedophiles at or near the university," said Clohessy. "College students are also vulnerable to sexual assault, especially from priests."

Cindy Robinson, whose law firm, Tremont and Sheldon, represented five of Stubbs' alleged victims in multi-million-dollar settlements paid by the Bridgeport Diocese, expressed surprise that Stubbs is being housed by Cernera.

"I find it shocking that the president of an esteemed diocesan university" would keep an alleged pedophile as a house guest, she said.

"It's very bizarre," Robinson said.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Elmira church where Stubbs was spotted, Mount Saviour Priory, confirmed she knew "Father Charles Stubbs," but after consulting with someone added that he was not associated with the monastery and she didn't know how to reach him.

In a recent restaurant review in the Star-Gazette of Elmira, Stubbs was briefly quoted in a review of a restaurant, Leonardo's: "I love it. I just wish they would get a beer and wine license."

Bridgeport Diocese Spokesman Joseph McAleer revealed this week that Stubbs has been laicized — or defrocked — although he did not know when it had been done. As of last year, the only abuser priest the diocese said it had laicized was Martin Federici.

"Since he was removed from ministry in 1997, Charles Stubbs has had no authority to serve or act as a priest, publicly or privately, in any diocese. This status is irrevocable and complete," McAleer said. "The local bishop, the prior of Mount Saviour Monastery and Dr. Cernera were promptly informed of the status by the Diocese of Bridgeport as required by the Dallas Charter.

The prior has informed the Diocese of Bridgeport that Charles Stubbs does attend Mass and prayer services [as anyone in the area is invited to do] but he has assured the diocese that Charles Stubbs does not perform any priestly duties, publicly or privately. We are confident that the monastery remains in full compliance."

In a 2002 interview, Lori said that in September 1997, while Cardinal Edward Egan was bishop of Bridgeport, diocesan officials received a complaint that Stubbs, 67, molested a boy at St. Mary's Church in Ridgefield. The diocese said it was the only complaint raised against Stubbs.

After investigating, Egan suspended Stubbs, but parishioners were not told what happened to him. When the Connecticut Post asked about Stubbs at the time, a diocesan spokesman said he was recovering from a knee injury. Stubbs, who had been named a monsignor by 1996, was also accused of financial impropriety at St. Mary's in Greenwich. Sources said Stubbs stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the church. He was forced to retire as pastor of St. Mary's. In July 1997, however, Egan brought Stubbs out of retirement and appointed him assistant pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown.

Later that year he was suspended after admitting to molesting a boy, according to Lori.

 
 

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