|Abuse Lawsuit Settled
Archdiocese Agrees to Pay Former Altar Boy
By Dave Altimari and Elizabeth Hamilton
March 6, 2008
The Archdiocese of Hartford agreed Wednesday to pay $599,000 to a former Bloomfield altar boy who charged that a former state police chaplain had sexually abused him in the 1970s.
The settlement avoids a civil trial that could have provided damaging details about how the Catholic church handled sex-abuse allegations, such as those levied against the Rev. Stephen Foley.
F. Glenn Sutherland put his head in his hands as Superior Court Judge Lois Tanzer announced in Hartford that the case had been settled and that a group of potential jurors was no longer needed.
The agreement, reached after two days of mediation before Judge James T. Graham, ended the more than 6-year-old lawsuit. But Sutherland said that it doesn't end his pain.
"It will never be over. Coming up here and dealing with this is part of the healing process, but it doesn't take away the memories of what happened," Sutherland said. "No amount of money or magic pill or wave of a magic wand can take away the bad memories or the loss of innocence that I've felt since I was a boy."
The archdiocese has now made payments to 12 men who said they were victims of Foley.
Sutherland's settlement is larger than what most of the others received two years ago, when U.S. District Court Magistrate William I. Garfinkel awarded $22 million to 43 men who had accused priests who worked for the archdiocese — including Foley — of sexual abuse.
It's also larger than what many accusers received in a similar settlement involving the Bridgeport archdiocese and 40 men who said they were victims of pedophile priests.
Sutherland, who lives outside of Baltimore with his second wife and their four daughters, said that he did not participate in the settlement process with Garfinkel on advice from his attorney, Robert Reardon of New London.
The Rev. John Gatzak, a spokesman for the Hartford archdiocese, said Wednesday that it "is not our practice to comment on individual settlements."
"But," Gatzak said, "I can tell you that the archdiocese approaches these situations with an attitude of compassion and understanding and attempts to work with the plaintiffs to resolve these matters quickly."
When asked why it took six years for the case to be settled, Gatzak said that it had to do with the plaintiff's "previous demand."
"I can't comment on what, exactly, it was, but I can tell you it was unreasonable," Gatzak said.
The two sides appeared headed for trial, which Tanzer had scheduled to begin March 18. On Wednesday, Tanzer called for prospective jurors to be brought to the courtroom to begin what was expected to be an arduous process to pick nine to hear the case.
But even as prospective jurors were being led into the courtroom, Reardon and John W. Sitarz, the attorney for the archdiocese, were taking turns meeting separately and together with Graham behind closed doors before the agreement was announced.
Foley had been living at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield until last March, when he was ordered to leave after The Courant reported that he was driving around in a Ford Crown Victoria, similar to what state police troopers drive.
The men who have made allegations against Foley since 1993 contended that the priest lured them with his position as chaplain and his pseudo-police car. They were attracted by the lights and sirens, they said, and the access that Foley had to fire and accident scenes, lawsuits allege.
Besides ordering Foley to leave the seminary, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell ordered him to sell the Crown Victoria. He turned in the license plates for the car last April, state records show.
Mansell and former Archbishop Daniel J. Cronin were expected to be called to testify at the civil trial.
Sutherland was 11 when he became an altar boy at Christ the King Church, where Foley was a parish priest at the time.
In court records, Sutherland charged that Foley used to take him for rides in his Crown Victoria, equipped with emergency lights.
He charged that Foley fondled him at a cottage in the Niantic section of East Lyme.
"Part of me has wanted to tell my story but thinking about [testifying] has brought up a lot of bad memories," Sutherland said. "I wanted [Foley] to look me in the eye, but I really wasn't sure how I was going to react."
Foley has apparently moved to Virginia, and his attorneys indicated that he would not be returning to Connecticut to testify at the trial.
That led Reardon to spend the past week trying to get Tanzer to order Foley's attorneys to turn over his Virginia address so that he could be subpoenaed to a video deposition.
Foley's attorney, Walter Hampton, refused to reveal where Foley is living.
Gatzak said that the archdiocese knows where Foley is and won't say publicly because "that's a matter of privacy that would be respected."
He also said: "I can tell you that wherever he's living, the church authorities in the area have been alerted that he is there."
Foley is still a priest, even though he has been ordered not to perform any duties.
The archdiocese sends him a monthly stipend of more than $1,000, plus it pays for his health insurance benefits.
In a previous deposition, Foley had denied knowing Sutherland and said that he couldn't recall ever going to his house or that Sutherland had been an altar boy at the church. In that same deposition, Foley denied knowing at least six of his accusers who have since settled with the archdiocese.
Sutherland said that Foley's denial of even knowing him or his family was "frustrating" and "hurtful."
"This is a man who had been in my parents' house and my neighbors' houses when I was there," Sutherland said.
Sutherland said he has thought about what he'd say to Foley if he ever met him again.
"I think I'd ask him to be truthful and to be honest because I think there are a lot of people who still want to believe this never happened and that people like me are lying."
Contact Dave Altimari at email@example.com
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