Ex-bishop named in sex abuse suit
By Curt Brown
Cape Cod Times
May 13, 2014
FALL RIVER — Former Fall River Bishop Daniel A. Cronin and the Fall River Diocese failed to supervise a priest who sexually abused two Falmouth altar boys from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, according to a lawsuit filed in Connecticut.
The suit, filed in the Judicial District of Hartford, names Cronin and the diocese as defendants. Cronin headed the diocese for 21 years until he left in December 1991 to become archbishop of the Hartford Diocese.
The 50-page complaint alleges Cronin did not properly supervise the late Monsignor Maurice Souza, a New Bedford native accused in court documents of sexually abusing the two altar servers beginning when they were 9 and 10 years old when he was assigned to St. Anthony's Parish in East Falmouth.
The abuse of the victims continued until they were 17 years old, according to Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery Inc., a New Jersey nonprofit charity that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families and is an advocate for the plaintiffs in this case.
According to court documents, the boys accompanied and traveled with Souza to Connecticut and Massachusetts for athletic contests and other events and were sexually abused in the two states. They would often spend the night with Souza at the rectory, in hotels in Connecticut and at his residence in Taunton.
Souza provided "rewards and inducements" to the boys and threatened to replace one of them with another travel companion and showed "anger" to the other, the complaint said.
He subjected one of the plaintiffs to repeated emotional abuse, the complaint said, "by regularly making disparaging and derogatory statements about the plaintiff's intelligence, athleticism and academic prowess."
"Souza was the abuser. Cronin was the enabler," Hoatson said.
Cronin, who is now retired, could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Souza, who was born in New Bedford, served briefly at St. John the Baptist, New Bedford, which has closed, in 1939 before moving to St. Anthony's Church of East Falmouth later that year. He died in 1996 at the age of 83.
The lawsuit was filed in January in Connecticut, but only came to light Monday. The names of the plaintiffs are contained in the lawsuit, but the decision has been made not to publish them.
Hoatson will discuss the case at a press conference at 11 a.m. today in front of the diocesan headquarters, 887 Highland Ave., Fall River.
John Kearns, a spokesman for the diocese, said Monday night that the lawsuit is "old and is being dealt with by the diocese." He did not elaborate.
The charges are the only allegations of wrongdoing in Souza's past, he said.
The suit is being brought by Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney. The lawsuit says Archbishop Cronin and the Diocese of Fall River "knew or should have known that Monsignor Souza posed an unreasonable risk of harm to minors."
"They were negligent in their supervision of Monsignor Souza," said Garabedian, who has represented dozens of clergy sexual abuse victims in civil cases against the Catholic Church. Garabedian said the plaintiffs in the Connecticut lawsuit have suffered tremendous mental anguish, and that both came forward in the past year to disclose the alleged abuse.
"They should be proud of coming forward," Garabedian said. "They're empowering themselves, other victims and making the world a safer place for children."
Reporter Brian Fraga of The Herald News in Fall River contributed to this report.