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  Allegations Cloud Memories of Deceased Enfield, Manchester Pastor

By Alex Wood
Journal Inquirer [Connecticut]
November 21, 2005

When Monsignor Edward J. Reardon died in 1991, more than 200 parishioners and dozens of clergy gathered for his funeral at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, where he had served as pastor for 13 years before his retirement in 1976.

Before coming to the Manchester parish, Reardon had served from 1950 to 1963 as pastor at St. Bernard Church in Enfield.

But 14 years after his death, Reardon's name has come back into the news in a very different context.

The Archdiocese of Hartford last month named him as one of 14 priests against whom child sexual-abuse allegations had been made. Those allegations led the archdiocese to agree to pay a total of $22 million to 43 people.

Hartford lawyer Hubert J. Santos represented Reardon's accuser. Contacted by telephone, Santos said he would ask his client about the possibility of an interview with the Journal Inquirer. But a subsequent call to Santos' office wasn't returned.

The Journal Inquirer did, however, locate a lawsuit accusing Reardon of sexual abuse, which was filed in Hartford Superior Court by Santos and an associate.

The lawsuit says the plaintiff, an unidentified Manchester man, was 47 years old when it was filed in March 2004.

The plaintiff met Reardon as a member of St. James, and Reardon sexually assaulted him in 1971 and 1972, when he was 15 and 16 years old, the suit charges. The abuse occurred at various locations at St. James Church, it adds.

The lawsuit also says the plaintiff attended St. James School from first through sixth grades, served as an altar boy, was involved in youth-group activities, and served St. James and the archdiocese "in several other capacities."

Because St. James is a Roman Catholic parish -- and because of the accuser's church-related activities -- the parish and the diocese had his trust, the lawsuit says.

To at least one St. James parishioner, a Manchester professional man who asked not to be identified, the allegations against Reardon came as no surprise.

"There have been a lot of rumors over the years," the man said, adding that the rumors were that Reardon "was aggressive toward young boys."

When he was 26 years old, the man recalled, Reardon put a hand on his thigh under a table. He said he turned to the monsignor and told him to get the hand off.

"He took his hand off my thigh very quickly," the man recalled.

But other parishioners had very different memories.

"We remember him with great fondness," said Joanne Carlson of Manchester. "I think he was a holy man. And I don't believe the allegations."

Carlson added that she "never, ever, ever saw a hint of anything out of line."

Michael Camerota of Somers was an altar boy at St. Bernard Church in Enfield when he was in the fifth and sixth grades. Reardon was pastor of the church at that time, but he wasn't in charge of altar boys, Camerota said.

"In spite of what you hear, I had no problems at all," Camerota said.

He does have memories of Reardon, though. He recalls sitting as a younger child in church as Reardon yelled at the congregation from the pulpit.

Camerota recalls thinking, "He's really mad."

"He was one of those fire-and-brimstone pastors," Camerota said.

During Reardon's 1991 funeral, the Rev. Francis Krukowski, then the pastor of St. James, recalled him as "the last of a group of tough, self-made individuals," adding that he followed a rigid religious schedule.

"When it was time to work, he worked hard," Krukowski said. "When it was time to pray, he prayed as if his very salvation depended on it."

Charity was part of Reardon's makeup as well as discipline.

In the early 1970s he allowed poor young people from Hartford to attend St. James School for free, according to Krukowski.

"Thousands of students benefited from his financial support," Krukowski added.

Gilbert Vasseur of Enfield recalls that he had a "little trouble" with Reardon when he was preparing for his second marriage. Vasseur was planning to marry his deceased wife's sister. He said Reardon "told me I couldn't marry my sister-in-law."

Vasseur said he was ultimately permitted to go through with the marriage and to have a church wedding, although Reardon didn't perform it.

As to the child-abuse allegations, Vasseur saw no need to discuss them because Reardon is deceased.

"Let's close the case," he said.

 
 

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