July 3, 2012
Under any circumstances news that a clergyman is under investigation in connection with child pornography having been found on a computer would be cause for concern. But given the past scandals involving child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and the church hierarchy's record of covering up such actions, word that the investigation focuses on a local Catholic pastor is particularly disturbing.
The Diocese of Norwich confirms that Rev. Dennis Carey has resigned as pastor of the St. Paul in Chains Church in Waterford as a State Police investigation into his conduct continues. We caution the public against any rush to judgment. As of Monday afternoon police had not filed any charges. Details are lacking as to what exactly State Police suspect, what evidence they may have and how they came about it.
It was good to hear a spokesman for the diocese, Michael Strammiello, say that diocesan officials were committed to cooperating with the investigation. In the wake of the past scandals, the Norwich diocese, covering much of eastern Connecticut, has pursued a program to keep children safe. It includes sensitivity training so that individuals working with children as part of church activities will recognize signs of abusive conduct. It encourages both clergy and laypeople to speak up if they suspect something is wrong and includes a commitment to share with law enforcement officials any evidence of criminal conduct.
The Rev. Carey case could put these promises to the test.
While no one should panic, it is understandable if parents who have had children involved in activities at Rev. Carey's parishes are concerned. Rev. Carey was ordained in 1998, appointed pastor at St. John Parish in Middletown in 2003. Prior to coming to Waterford, he also served at St. Joseph Parish in New London, Most Holy Trinity in Pomfret and St. John the Evangelist in Old Saybrook. Some uncomfortable, but necessary discussions between parents and children will be going on. But regardless of any suspicions or concerns, it is vitally important that parents talk to their children about proper and improper touch and empower them to speak up if something makes them uncomfortable.
In the meantime, it's time to let the investigatory process work.