|Family of St. Pete Clergy Sex Victim Gets Settlement; SNAP Responds
March 22, 2011
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Time and time again, St. Louis Catholics and church officials vilified former St. Pete resident Michael Powel. Now, Michael has again been vindicated.
The Bridgeport Post reports that Catholic officials there have paid $200,000 to Powel’s family. (In 2009, Catholic officials in St. Louis also paid his family a settlement, though the amount was not disclosed.)
When he began speaking up in 2002, when the church’s abuse and cover up scandal was at a fever pitch, many found it easy to dismiss Powel’s claims. In two separate lawsuits, Powel said five men in two states molested him and that he repressed some of the memories until he began suffering from brain cancer. None of the accused had ever been charged with or sued for abuse before.
Powel was vilified by many skeptical lay Catholics and several callous Catholic officials.
Three of the accused were Connecticut men: Carlo Fabbozzi, a parish gardener, a parish priest named Fr. Joseph Gorecki and a former Boy Scout troop leader. Two were Chaminade clerics: Brother John Woulfe and the Rev. William Christiansen - who taught at a Chaminade.
But despite his death in 2008, Powel has, over time, largely been vindicated. Woulfe was later convicted of abusing a child in Illinois. In a 2005 trial, a Connecticut parish employee was found guilty of molesting Powel. In 2009, Powel’s family quietly settled with a St. Louis Catholic school where two of the predators worked. Three months ago, it was disclosed that Christensen is reportedly being defrocking by the Vatican officials due to 30 allegations of molesting kids in Bangladesh. And today, a Connecticut newspaper reports that the Bridgeport diocese has reached a settlement of $200,000 with Powel’s family over his abuse there by a Fr. Joseph Gorecki, who was also accused by seven other boys.
We hope those who criticized and disbelieved Michael will take note – four of the five men he said molested him have, in one form or fashion, been essentially been deemed “credibly accused” by a jury or by Catholic officials.
We hope church employees and members will publicly apologize to Michael’s family for their insensitive actions.
A key lesson to be learned here is that when victims are strong enough to persevere and wise enough to take legal action, sometimes justice can be done and wrongdoers can be exposed.
Several attorneys helped Michael and his family through this long ordeal. We are grateful to each of them. We’re also grateful to Michael’s loved ones, who didn’t let his pursuit of justice end with his death. And most of all, we’re grateful to Michael for his astonishing courage and indomitable spirit.
(In St. Louis, Powel was represented by Joseph Bauer. In Connecticut, he was represented by Helen McGonigle. His family was represented by Michael Reck of the Newport Beach CA-based Manly Stewart law firm.)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, email@example.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Bridgeport diocese settles lawsuit with Powel family
Daniel Tepfer, Staff Writer -Updated 08:02 a.m., Monday, March 21, 2011 photo of Michael Powel taken in 1969 at age 10 and at the time...
BRIDGEPORT -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport has agreed to pay $200,000 to the family of a man who claimed he was abused as a child first by a gardener and then a priest at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull in the 1970s.
Michael Powel died in October 2008 after an eight-year battle with cancer but his wife and two adult children continued his lawsuit against the diocese.
"It has been a long road and it's really unfortunate Mike couldn't be here to see the end of it," said the family's lawyer, Michael Reck.
Powel won a $10 million verdict five years ago, that he was never able to collect, against Carlo Fabbozzi, a former janitor/landscaper at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull, who Powel claimed had sexually abused him in the late 1960s and early `70s. He later claimed that after Fabbozzi abused him, a priest then assigned to St. Theresa's, the Rev. Joseph Gorecki, also abused him in 1971.
Powell also had made allegations of being sexually abused by a former Boy Scout troop leader in Easton and by two clergymen who were teachers at a college prep school Powell attended in Missouri.
Powel, who grew up in Bridgeport and later moved to Florida, first told Bishop William Lori and diocesan officials about the alleged abuse by Fabbozzi in 2002. He claimed he was one of several boys working with Fabbozzi at St. Theresa's, and that Fabbozzi had molested him several times in a shed on church grounds.
Diocesan officials, however, steadfastly maintain Fabbozzi was not a diocese employee, and the diocese was not a party in Powel's lawsuit against Fabbozzi. But during the Fabbozzi trial in Superior Court, Monsignor Laurence Bronkiewicz testified, via a videotaped deposition, that he interviewed Fabbozzi shortly after Powel's allegations became public. He said Fabbozzi admitted to abusing Powel.
Bronkiewicz, a former diocesan chancellor, testified that after another person came forward with abuse allegations against Fabbozzi, he told the pastor of St. Theresa's Church to fire Fabbozzi.
After going public with his abuse allegations, Powel became a vocal critic of the way the diocese had handled allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
In an unusual move, Lori later had a letter read to parishioners across the diocese castigating Powel.
"Mr. Powel's `Lawn Man Liability Theory' goes where no other liability claims against Catholic institutions have gone before," Lori stated in the letter. "Imagine if you were held responsible for what your lawn man, plumber, or electrician may have done over 40 years ago! This is what the diocese is now fighting."
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