|From Files Complaints and Diocese Reactions
By Charles Carr
The Hartford Courant
December 2, 2009
Despite a May 1990 memo by a diocese official worrying about "a developing pattern of accusations" that the Rev. Charles Carr of Norwalk had fondled young boys, then-Bishop Edward Egan kept Carr working as a priest until 1995, when he suspended him only after a lawsuit was filed.
At that time, Egan's aide, Vicar Laurence R. Bronkiewicz, wrote a sympathetic note to Carr.
"Trusting that you understand the reasons for these actions, I join Bishop Egan in praying that the Lord will bless you with the graces you need at this time in your life," Bronkiewicz wrote.
Egan reinstated Carr in 1999 as a part-time chaplain at a church-run nursing home in Danbury.
In an August 1996 deposition, Christopher Surran, 38, said he and another boy were molested by Carr while Surran and his family were parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton. Carr had insisted on taking the boys on an hourlong visit to the priest's sister's house in New York. Surran said he was in fifth or sixth grade at the time.
On the drive to New York, Surran said Carr, who was driving, began aggressively tickling the other boy, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. On the return trip, Surran said he sat in the front passenger seat and he became the subject of Carr's aggressive attentions after the other boy had been dropped at his home.
"After we dropped off Stephen, he started tickling me further, and then he tried to stick his hand down my pants further trying to touch my penis," Surran said in the deposition.
Surran said he was afraid and fought back, kicking at Carr and calling him a pervert. At that point, Surran said the priest became subdued.
"He said he gets out of control sometimes," Surran testified at the deposition. "He has trouble controlling himself."
Following a complaint by Surran's parents, Carr was removed from Our Lady of Fatima. But Surran testified that his family learned later on that Carr had been reassigned as a spiritual adviser at Central Catholic High School in Bridgeport.
In an Oct. 5, 1995 deposition, Carr admitted repeatedly "tickling" boys, but said it was "just playing around, horsing around."
Bishop William Lori finally defrocked Carr in 2002 and referred him to state child protection authorities after receiving a new complaint. Carr is no longer a priest.
The complaints against Federici date to 1968, when local police passed along to either Bishop Walter Curtis or Federici's pastor at Assumption Church in Westport a complaint they had received about Federici abusing a young boy in Federici's car.
At the time, Federici was undergoing psychiatric treatment. He refused to answer questions about the abuse. He was transferred to St. Ambrose Church in Bridgeport, where "no one is advised at that parish of Federici's sexual involvement with young boys," records show.
While at St. Ambrose, Federici was accused of sodomizing a young boy in the cellar of the rectory, the documents say. The boy's father reported the abuse to the priest at the church. After a brief visit to the church, the boy's father emerged from the rectory and told his son, "You don't have to worry about it anymore. Father Federici will not bother you anymore," the records show.
Federici was transferred again in 1978. A psychological evaluation showed Federici "has very poor contact with reality … his emotional life is in a state of chaos. His thinking is very primitive like that of a little child … and he needs to be watched and cared for like a child."
In 1983, while still an active priest, Federici was accused of sodomizing another boy, this time during confession at St. Joseph's Church in Shelton. Federici was again transferred.
The documents also reveal the unwillingness of some church leaders to believe parishioners' complaints about Federici.
When parents of a 12-year-old seventh-grader at All Saints School in Norwalk told Bronkiewicz in 1993 that Federici had "masturbated himself" in an office at the school in front of their son, Bronkiewicz was incredulous.
"He refused to believe my complaints; [he said] that Father Federici did nothing improper with my son and there would be no further investigation of the claim," the father of the boy said, according to an affidavit.
When the boy's mother told Bronkiewicz she planned to put her complaint in writing, Bronkiewicz said "he would refuse to accept it." What's more, he reportedly said the diocese would destroy the complaint, if it were received, according to the affidavit.
In 1994, Federici was promoted to parochial vicar at St. Augustine's Cathedral in Bridgeport. On July 23, 1996, he was granted an indefinite leave of absence.
In a Nov. 5, 1996, deposition, Federici, who is now 69, declined to answer so many questions by a lawyer representing children that the resulting transcript amounts to little more than an outline of a career spent transferring between Fairfield County churches.
He declined to answer at least 40 questions about his sexual orientation and sexual behavior with both children and adults on the grounds that the responses would have incriminated him.
Among the questions he was asked:
Q: Did you ever masturbate in the confessional while a young boy was hearing … while you were hearing a young penitent's confession?
A: I decline to answer on the basis of the Fifth Amendment.
Joseph P. Moore
The Rev. Joseph P. Moore was one of the priests who disappeared from his parish in 1997 without explanation. The diocese later admitted Moore had been removed for sexual misconduct — behavior that dated to the 1970s.
At that time, Moore trained altar boys at the Church of the Assumption in Westport. According to an affidavit released Tuesday, one of the boys said he and another youth were sexually assaulted by Moore during a trip to Block Island, R.I., in the summer of either 1978 or 1979.
Moore insisted that the boys sleep in separate bedrooms, according to the affidavit. One of the boys said Moore "returned repeatedly" to his room, telling him to take off his clothes. The other boy said he was assaulted as well.
The boys said they "jumped out of a bedroom window to escape Father Moore's sexual advances" and fled to a neighboring home, where they found shelter for the night and called their parents.
The fathers of the two boys later met with and complained to Monsignor Andrew Cusack. Cusack said Moore "had been evaluated" and it was determined he was "not a homosexual," according to an affidavit prepared later by one of the boys.
The boys did not receive counseling from the diocese, the affidavit states.
In November 1976, a monsignor received a complaint that a New Canaan apartment rented by the Rev. Walter Coleman was being "visited by teenagers" and had become a "nuisance." During the same year, Coleman took a leave from the church and traveled across the country in the company of an individual the court records describe as a minor boy. In 1977, the boy's mother filed a complaint with the diocese against Coleman "in connection with the abuse of her two sons," documents state.
In 1982, Coleman was appointed spiritual director of Immaculate High School in Danbury. The diocese learned three years later that Coleman had purchased a home with a single mother and that the home was in foreclosure. The woman sued Coleman in an effort to force him to help her keep the home.
Another complaint was filed against Coleman in March 1994 by a man who claimed he was abused as a child. The diocese paid a confidential settlement and allowed Coleman to remain a priest.
Coleman was finally suspended after a lawsuit was filed against him in November 1995. The diocese failed to advise the Archdiocese of Miami, to which Coleman had transferred and where was serving as a priest, of the suspension until September 1996. The Bridgeport diocese disclosed the information after an inquiry by church officials in Miami.
Church officials were aware of at least two complaints filed by two women who alleged sexual misbehavior by Smith at St. Teresa's Parish in Trumbull in the 1970s.
In a deposition, Monsignor William A. Genuario acknowledged getting a phone call from a woman in the 1980s claiming that she had sex with Smith while at St. Teresa's. Genuario said she called asking his advice on what to do. He testified that he told her to call the current monsignor, Andrew Cusack. He never followed up with Cusack to see if the complaint was investigated.
In 1998, church officials received a letter from a second woman who said that as a teenager Smith abused her in the rectory. The woman said his interest in her faded when he started having sex with her girlfriend, who allegedly reported it to church officials. Smith was transferred to a parish in Danbury and eventually promoted to monsignor.
The woman eventually filed a lawsuit against the diocese.
Smith resigned as director of the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Studies at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield in April 2002. Smith also requested a leave of absence, and his authorization to function as a priest was removed.
In a letter to Bishop Lori dated Saturday, April 20, 2002, Monsignor Smith wrote, "After careful prayer and consideration, I feel it best for everyone that I offer my resignation as Director of the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Studies at Sacred Heart University to Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, President. I also request of you a leave of absence. I truly wish to apologize to those I harmed early in my ministry and I ask their forgiveness."
One of the priests Curtis protected was Brett, who was moved not only within the Bridgeport diocese but also to several others, including Sacramento and Baltimore, before he was finally told by Egan in the 1990s that he could no longer perform the duties of a priest.
Along the way, he abused dozens of boys and even admitted to Bridgeport church officials to biting the penis of a student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield during non-consensual oral sex.
Brett was ordered to leave the diocese after being confronted about the incident with the Sacred Heart student. He was transferred to Sacramento, Santa Fe and Baltimore, but was permitted to continue as a priest under the auspices of the Bridgeport diocese, first under Curtis and later under Egan.
When Brett was sent away from the Bridgeport diocese in 1964, church officials wrote in a memo that if any parishioners asked about Brett's sudden absence, " hepatitis was to be feigned" as a cover.
During his deposition, Egan argued with the plaintiffs' attorneys who claimed the memo showed the church was trying to hide Brett.
"I would read it that this man is going away, and if anyone asks, say he's not well, he has hepatitis. That's quite a bit different than saying you are going to hide it," Egan said.
Egan added that he wouldn't have made up an excuse about a priest's absence, preferring instead to simply tell anyone who inquired that it was none of their business.
Egan allowed Brett to continue working as a priest outside of the diocese until February 1993, three months after receiving additional allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett that dated to the 1960s.
When the allegations came in, Egan's aide, Bronkiewicz, wrote a letter alerting the archdiocese in Baltimore, where Brett had been assigned, assuring the church officials there that the latest allegations had not become public.
"At the present time, we have no reason to believe the accuser of Father Brett intends to take legal action of any kind, and there has been no publicity concerning the accusation," Bronkiewicz wrote.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.