Parishioners 'Shocked,' 'Disappointed' by St. Paul Priest's Child Porn Arrest
By Paul Petrone
July 4, 2012
When police stormed the St. Paul in Chains rectory last Thursday, search warrant in hand, the only person who wasn't surprised with the outcome was the Rev. Dennis Carey.
Carey, the head pastor of the Waterford church, knew what police would find: 275 images and 63 videos of child pornography on church computers, including videos of men having oral and vaginal sex with girls as young as 4 years old.
When police interviewed Carey that day, he admitted to being addicted to child pornography for the last two years, although he said he never touched a child inappropriately, according to the arrest warrant.
Carey immediately resigned as pastor of the church and was charged on Monday with first-degree possession of child pornography. During his arraignment hearing in New London Superior Court on Tuesday, Carey admitted he had a problem and said he would seek therapy to fix it.
"I want to get help," Carey told judge Kevin P. McMahon.
Carey's lawyer, Ronald Stevens, maintained his client never did anything physically inappropriate with a child.
"I just think there is a huge difference," Stevens said, referring to the difference between viewing child pornography and physically abusing children.
Outside the courthouse after the arraignment, Carey remained silent, his eyes fixed on the ground, while Stevens told the assembled media his client would seek therapy and that the church did not have any knowledge of the alleged crimes.
"The church is not involved here," Stevens said. "We wanted to make sure everyone understood the church is not involved here. In many of these other cases, the church is involved, hiding things — (that) didn't happen."
Carey's arrest has left St. Paul's parishioners reeling.
One congregant who went to the court hearing but asked not to be identified said she knew Carey well and thought he was a good priest.
"It's a shock," she said. "I just really hope he never had contact with the children."
J.W. "Bill" Sheehan, who has been a lector at St. Paul's since 1989, shared the same view.
"I'm essentially speechless," Sheehan said. "Hopefully he did not affect any kids in our parish. That is really my big worry, that it went further than just watching something on a computer."
First-degree possession of child pornography is a Class B Felony, and, if found guilty, Carey would receive a five-year mandatory prison sentence, according to McMahon.
Parishioners described Carey as understanding and easy to talk to. They said he had a good sense of humor, and there was no indication of any wrongdoing.
"Father (Carey) always has been nice," said the female parishioner who did not want to be identified. "I couldn't believe it."
The woman urged that if Carey abused any child, the child should come forward. Sheehan agreed, saying he hopes the abused find "the courage" to do so, if there are any.
Both the woman and Sheehan said they felt bad for Carey, even though he brought it on himself and deserves to be punished. Both said they hope he gets the help he needs.
"I'm angry with him, but I'm also sad," Sheehan said. "I just don't understand why people do that. Human tragedy is always tough."
Tuesday morning, the Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, Bishop of Norwich, sent out a statement about the arrest. Cote said the allegations are "extremely serious" and "to exploit children like that is absolutely reprehensible."
"This is a sad moment for all of us," Cote said in the statement. "We always hope we will never again hear about any investigations or allegations of misconduct by priests. For the parish community, for the priests of the Diocese, and for me personally, it is extremely difficult. We are all saddened and deeply hurt."
"We are grateful to the state police for their professionalism," Cote continued. "They continue to have our full support and cooperation."
Father Joseph Whittel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Quaker Hill will serve as the interim head pastor of St. Paul's. Cote said the Diocese will cooperate with police and share information as it becomes available.
The Full Story
Carey, 65, who grew up in Boston, was ordained a priest in 1998 after working for 25 years as a certified public accountant. After working as a pastor in Middletown and as an administrator in St. John's, he came to St. Paul's in Waterford and has been living at the rectory at 170 Rope Ferry Road.
According to the arrest warrant, the criminal investigation into Carey began when Los Angeles Police obtained a warrant to search Carey's e-mail in April after receiving a tip that he was e-mailing and receiving files containing child pornography. Los Angeles Police found the e-mail account was filled with images of child pornography.
Los Angeles Police then contacted Connecticut State Police, who verified the e-mail address belonged to Carey. On June 22, they secured a warrant to search St. Paul's, and on June 28 conducted the search with the help of Waterford Police.
During their search, state trooper David Aresco interrogated Carey. In that interrogation, Carey said he first viewed child pornography two years ago in an Internet news group and became addicted to it. Carey said he tried to stop viewing the pornography many times, but couldn't, according to the arrest warrant.
According to the warrant, police seized several computers and hard drives at the church and found 338 files of child pornography, including 275 photos and 63 videos. The videos included men having oral and vaginal sex with female children as young as 4 and another video of a man fondling a 2-year-old.
Carey resigned as pastor of St. Paul's later that day. He insists that he never touched a child inappropriately.