Details of Abuse Allegation against Darien Priest Elusive
By David Gurliacci
August 28, 2012
Roman Catholic officials say they have never received specific allegations about the behavior of the Rev. Robert Post, a priest at the St. Thomas More Church in Darien, and the lawyer for three men accusing him won't make their accusations public.
The Rev. Robert Post has been accused publicly of having sexually abused three teenagers when he was a member of the Irish Christian Brothers in New York state, before he became a priest 30 years ago.
But specific, detailed allegations, the credibility of which might be judged, have not been made public. Nor has Post, a priest at St. Thomas More Church, been arrested or prosecuted.
Instead, Robert M. Hoatson, a former Catholic priest who now runs Road to Recovery, an organization that describes itself as offering "compassionate counseling and referral services to survivors of clergy sexual abuse," made himself one half of a two-man demonstration Saturday in front of St. Thomas More as parishioners entered and then left the church for Saturday afternoon Mass.
The two held a news conference afterward where they said they wanted the Bridgeport Diocese to remove Post from his position as it investigates the priest's past.
"[T]hree men have come forward to claim that they were abused by Br. Robert Post," the organization said in a news release. "Not one, not two, THREE."
J. Michael Reck, a lawyer at the New York office of Jeff Anderson & Associates, a prominent law firm in clergy sexual abuse trials, has signed on as a lawyer representing three of the 422 clients in a massive case against the Irish Christian Brothers, which has filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, NY.
If the judge in the case finds for Irish Christian Brothers, that may protect the order from some or all of the legal claims filed against it by people who say they were sexually abused by members of the organization.
Reck says he represents "three claimants who allege they have been sexually abused by, at the time, Br. Post. At least one of them was a student at Blessed Sacrament," a high school in New Rochelle, NY where Post was principal.
At least one of the three, Reck said, had been a student at Blessed Sacrament School, an Irish Christian Brothers boys high school in New Rochelle, NY. The parish school still exists, although now it is combined with a girls school.
Hoatson said that client had gotten in touch with him, since the two had known each other when Hoatson was teaching at the school. The complainant had been a student there at the time, and Post had been principal.
"I do know that they were sexual abuse allegations," Hoatson said of that man's accusation, "but I don't know the specifics of them."
At that time from 1976 to 1979, Hoatson had repeatedly complained to higher authorities at Irish Christian Brothers that Post appeared to be having inappropriate relationships with some of the students.
Hoatson said he had no direct evidence of Post having sexual relations with students at the time. Since then, the former student has discussed Post's conduct with him.
After a few years of complaints, both Post and Hoatsman were transferred to other schools in 1979, Hoatsman said. Hoatsman was transferred to a tough school in Harlem—a decision he interpreted as punishment for having blown the whistle on Post. Hoatsman later became a priest in the Newark Archdiocese, and then left the priesthood.
"It is time for the Bridegport Diocese to remove Fr. Robert Post from ministry, conduct a thorough investigation of the three claims against him, and help his victims heal from the trauma of sexual abuse," Hoatson said in the news release.
"The Bridgeport Diocese must stop acting in defense of Fr. Post and reach out to his alleged victims. Fr. Robert Post must be removed from ministry immediately in order to protect children."
Reck says he has filed a description of his clients complaints with the Bankruptcy Court, but that those legal papers are sealed, and the names of his clients are not public, either. It will be up to the judge in bankruptcy court to decide whether the claims should remain private or be public, Reck said.
Reck said he hasn't gone to the Bridgeport Diocese with his clients complaints, all of which involve allegations of behavior by Post before he was ordained a priest in the diocese in 1982.
Although Reck's name and phone number appear at the bottom of Hoatson's news release, Reck said he was not part of Hoatson's protest. Hoatson confirmed that.
Reck has not presented the diocese with a complaint.
Reck said his clients are suing the Irish Christian Brothers, officially for monetary compensation, but he said that was also the only way to pursue the matter in bankruptcy court.
"It's really a chance to seek some accountability and some transparency about this man who never should have been exposed to children," he said. "Is there a financial component? Yes, but that's not really what it's all about. It's far more important to achieve accountability and transparency, which is what these brave men are doing."
Later in the same interview, Reck said, "I think that all survivors of child sexual abuse would like to show why this happened, how this happened, so other people would not have to go through it."
Reply from the Bridgeport Diocese
Brian Wilson, a spokesman for the diocese, said that whenever the diocese receives a specific complaint, it passes on the information to the Connecticut Department for Families and Children and starts its own investigation.
When that happens, a priest or other employee accused of sexual abuse of children may be suspended under diocese policy, Wilson said.
But the diocese can't act without a specific allegation being brought to its attention, he said."We're asking people, if they've been abused, come forward. They should identify themselves."
Post's conduct as a priest has been exemplary, Wilson said. "He has a very good record up here [in the Diocese of Bridgeport]. He's been up here 30 years, and there have been no sexual abuse allegations brought against him. [...] We have a priest up here who's really good—who's done a good job."
Wilson pointed out that all of the allegations involving Reck's clients would have taken place before Post went to the diocese and became a priest, so there are no diocese records to look at.
Hoatson pointed out that when a man applies to become a priest, a diocese will typically look into his background, but he added that he didn't expect the Irish Christian Brothers to say anything negative about Post.
Hoatson said he could not point to any specific allegations of sexual abuse made against Post after he joined the Bridgeport Diocese in 1982 and became a priest.
Wilson said Hoatson had made public his accusation against Post several years ago, in 2007 or so when he filed a lawsuit involving his treatment by the Irish Christian Brothers, and Bridgeport diocese officials had looked into it, but Hoatson didn't have evidence, Wilson said.
"It was a rather bizarre suit," he said. "There wasn't any ability to follow it up because it didn't make any sense." Hoatson lost his case. Hoatson says the judge's statements showed that he was very biased. Hoatson said he appealed his case, lost on appeal and then ran out of money for any further legal action.
Post in Darien and beyond
Post, 72, also known as "Father Bob," has been a priest at St. Thomas More parish since 1999, and before that from 1984 to 1987. He also has many other roles and activities as a priest outside the parish, including as chaplain to the Stamford Fire Department, according to his extensive biographical Web page on the Darien church's website.
One of those activities is to spend summers at an American Catholic Church in Rome. He's still over in Italy, Wilson said, although he has been contacted about Hoatson's protest and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing.
"He is aware that this is back in the news," Wilson said, "and there may be people coming forward."