$1.1 Million Awarded in Lawsuit over Molestation
Waterford Man Was Abused by Priest Nearly 30 Years Ago
By Bethe Dufresne
The Day [Connecticut]
November 30, 2006
A Waterford man has been awarded $1.1 million in a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich over molestation he suffered by a priest in 1978.
The plaintiff's attorney, Robert I. Reardon of New London, called it the largest settlement ever paid by the Norwich Diocese in a priest molestation case. The lawsuit was brought by Michael J. Long of Waterford in 2002 and was settled Sept. 14 in Hartford Superior Court. Reardon announced the award Wednesday.
Attorney Joseph T. Sweeney of Halloran & Sage in Hartford, representing the diocese, said Wednesday that two more lawsuits against the diocese regarding priest molestation are still left to be resolved.
Long sued the diocese and St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church in New London for damages suffered when he was molested at age 14-15 by Father Bruno Primavera, then associate pastor at St. Mary's.
Sweeney said that Primavera has since died.
As a condition of the settlement, Long demanded a letter of apology to his mother, Gail Long of New London, from the current Bishop of Norwich, the Most Rev. Michael Cote, in light of his mother's devout Catholicism and years of volunteering at St. Mary's Church.
Neither Long nor his mother could be reached for comment Wednesday, but his father, Daniel Long, said the family was happy with the settlement and appreciated Cote's letter of apology on behalf of the church. "My son insisted on it," he said.
Cote could not be reached Wednesday, but Sweeney said the bishop would have written such a letter without being asked.
In the letter, dated Oct. 2, Cote said that "the abuse of any child by any person is intolerable," but when the abuser is a priest, it is "an even more profound violation of God's law, and does grave harm to every believing Catholic."
He called Primavera's behavior an inexcusable betrayal of trust, and said Michael J. Long had reason to expect "help and direction in the church, not harm."
According to Sweeney, "prior to August 2002 the Diocese had no knowledge of the alleged incident" involving Long.
At the time the abuse occurred, Primavera was a visiting priest from the Archdiocese of Toronto, sent here on "three years of experimental service," Sweeney said.
Primavera was "terminated" by then Bishop Daniel Reilly in early February 1980, said Sweeney, as a result of a complaint from the Waterford Police Department. Police told Reilly they had "encountered Father Primavera in a car somewhere with some teenager in a compromised position," said Sweeney.
Based on court depositions, Sweeney said, that same week Gail Long complained to Reilly about Primavera, saying her son had told her that "a bad thing" happened when he went to see Primavera one night at the rectory.
Primavera was a schoolteacher before he became a priest, said Sweeney, and got to know Long through the church youth group, where Long was an officer.
Sweeney said Long testified in a deposition that Primavera invited him to the rectory to view a movie for the youth group. When he arrived, only Primavera was there. The priest sexually assaulted him, Long said in his deposition, after which he ran out and called his mother to pick him up in downtown New London.
Primavera's career as a priest didn't end when he was sent back to Toronto. After he left there, he worked in the Archdioceses of Boston, Hartford and New York, said Sweeney, but "for some reason moved on."
In the late 1980s he wound up in New Mexico, said Sweeney, where he "apparently got into trouble and was arrested." Sweeney said he thought Primavera had been defrocked before he died.
Long filed his lawsuit as John L. Doe, Reardon said in a news release, but at the outset of trial the diocese filed a motion requiring him to disclose his name.
"Appreciating that it was important to all of the victims of molestation by priests that his case go forward, Michael agreed to do so," Reardon said, praising his client's courage.
Reardon said the four years of litigation included depositions of Primavera, Reilly and Monsignor Thomas Bride of the Norwich Diocese, as well as doctors and experts on the psychological impact of child molestation by priests.
Also providing a deposition was Father Thomas Doyle in Washington, D.C., an expert on canon law who has been dealing with the priest molestation crisis since the early 1980s.
Reardon said a settlement was reached on the first day of jury selection at Hartford Superior Court, where he settled another lawsuit alleging priest molestation for $850,000.
In John M. Doe v. The Archdiocese of Hartford, a Hartford businessman who wanted to remain anonymous alleged he had been abused when he was 15 by Father Stephen Foley, a state police chaplain and chaplain to the State Fire Chiefs' Association in the 1970s and 1980s.
In Long's case, said Reardon, "Michael and his family have been incredibly brave as they proceeded through the ordeal of this lawsuit. He is relieved that this case is over so that he can finally begin the healing process."
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