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  Pastors Don't Recall Issues with Accused Priest

By Jackie Majerus
The Bristol Press [Bristol CT]
November 2, 2005

BRISTOL -- One of the priests named in the Archdiocese of Hartford's sexual abuse settlement this week served as recently as five years ago at St. Joseph Church and St. Anthony Church in Bristol. Louis Paturzo, who is no longer a priest, spent time serving Mass at the two Bristol churches from 1997 to 2000, though pastors from those churches said they're not aware of any problems within their parishes while he was there.

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In addition to Paturzo, three other priests who had area parish assignments were among the 14 accused in the lawsuit settled Monday, according to the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The Rev. Thomas Glynn [deceased] served at St. Matthew, Forestville, 1966-67; the Rev. Felix Maguire worked at St. Pius X, Wolcott, 1968-72; and the Rev. Edward Muha [deceased], served at Immaculate Conception in Terryville, 1969-96.

The Rev. Nick Melo, pastor at St. Anthony's Church, said Paturzo lived at St. Joseph Church during his stay in Bristol and worked half-time as a priest and half-time for the state.

Paturzo split his half-time hours between the two parishes, said Melo, making him a "quarter-time priest" at each.

At St. Joseph Church, Paturzo did the Spanish Mass, said the Rev.James Leary, who served for 18 years at St. Joseph Church before moving to a West Hartford church more than a year ago.

"He helped me mostly on weekends," said Leary.

Paturzo's duties at St. Anthony were minimal, according to Melo. He said Paturzo covered for him on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which were his days off. On those days, Paturzo said Mass and officiated at funerals, Melo said.

According to a 2002 Dallas Morning News series on Catholic bishops and sex abuse, Paturzo was first accused in 1993, but was allowed to continue in the priesthood after state police could not prove the allegations and psychiatrists said he posed no threat to children.

Paturzo, who became a priest in 1981, remained on duty until May 2002 when he admitted molesting young boys and resigned from his job at a middle school, the 2002 newspaper series reported. Both incidents happened in the 1970s when he was a church deacon, according to the Texas paper.

But both Melo and Leary said they knew nothing about the allegations when Paturzo came to their churches in the late 1990s to lend a hand.

For the incidents in the 1970s, Melo said, Paturzo was removed from the ministry -- a punishment Melo described as "severe" for actions decades ago, before Paturzo became a priest.

"There's a zero-tolerance policy," said Melo. "He's been a priest for over 25 years with no other inklings of anything."

"There's a difference between someone like that and some of these sexual predators," said Melo, adding, "Guys like that need to be locked up somewhere."

Melo, who's been a priest for 22 years and served the past 16 of them at St. Anthony, said he didn't know anything about the allegations against Paturzo when they served together in Bristol.

"He didn't come forward and volunteer anything," Melo said.

Leary said he spoke with Paturzo about the allegations afterward, but said he didn't want to comment on their confidential conversation. He said Paturzo was a friend.

Leary said no one at his parish in Bristol raised any allegations about Paturzo.

"There was never any issue like that at all," Leary said. "I certainly never thought that he was a danger when he was in Bristol. I sincerely believe there was nothing like that going on in Bristol."

Melo said he would be more than willing to help anyone victimized by a priest, but he said he's not worried that a parishioner might come forward with an allegation against Paturzo. He said the diocese is always asking that anyone with that kind of information bring it forth.

It has to "be an awful thing," said Melo, who added the church has apologized and tried to make changes. "We work to make sure that it doesn't happen ever again."

Leary, who has been a priest for 38 years, said, "I think it's terrible that priests have done things like this. I feel very badly for all those people who've been victimized by them."

Melo said most people understand the majority of priests are good people, living their calling.

Paturzo, who did work with gangs in Hartford, "had a real gift" for it, according to Melo.

"He had a way of relating to these troubled youth," said Melo. "He did a lot of good, which is why I felt so sad over an incident that apparently happened over 30 years ago."

But Melo said he also understands the zero-tolerance policy.

Melo said he doesn't have "a clue" where to find Paturzo now.

"No one seems to know where he is," said Melo. "I literally haven't seen him or talked to him since he left here."

"I haven't seen him in probably about six or seven months," Leary said.

Paturzo could not be reached for comment.

 
 

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