Ex-archbishop Cronin Named in Suit Accusing Priest
By Matthew Kauffman
May 13, 2014
|Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin passes incense over the new altar at the front of St. Patrick's Church in Enfield Sunday in a rededication ceremony on Jan. 27, 2002. (Brad Clift / Hartford Courant / January 27, 2002)|
Former Hartford Archbishop Daniel Cronin is being sued by two men who say he was negligent in his supervision of a Massachusetts priest who allegedly molested the pair 30 years ago.
The plaintiffs, former alter boys who are now in their 40s, say they were abused from 1979 through the mid-80s by Monsignor Maurice Souza, who served as pastor of St. Anthony's Parish in East Falmouth, Mass. At the time, Cronin was bishop of the Diocese of Fall River, which included St. Anthony's
The suit does not claim that Cronin was aware of the alleged abuse, but says that as Souza's supervisor, he had a "duty to evaluate whether Monsignor Souza posed an unreasonable risk of harm to minors."
The suit alleges that Souza, who died in 1996, took each of the boys on trips to sporting and other events in Massachusetts, Connecticut and elsewhere, after which they would spend the night at the rectory, in hotel rooms or at Souza's home in Taunton, Mass.
During those overnight stays, the suit alleges, Souza "engaged in explicit sexual behavior and lewd and lascivious behavior," including Souza "performing body massages, rubbing plaintiff's groin area and buttocks, and genital manipulation on the plaintiff for the purpose of Monsignor Souza's sexual gratification and then requiring the plaintiff to mimic the same behavior upon Monsignor Souza."
The alleged abuse began when the boys were 9 and 10 years old and continued until they were about 17, according to the suit.
The suit asserts that Cronin was responsible for assuring that Souza was fit to work with minor children and should have developed and enforced policies limiting unsupervised interaction between priests and minors.
John Kearns, a spokesman for the Fall River diocese, said in a statement that the two men filed a claim with church officials in July 2012. He said no other allegations were ever made against Souza and that a diocesan investigation "did not find substantial support for the serious allegations being made."
Kearns said the diocese nevertheless offered counseling to the two men and in 2013 agreed to mediation "to bring closure to the case." Be he said a lawyer for the two men withdrew from the mediation a year ago.
Cronin, 86, became archbishop in Hartford in 1992, after nearly 30 years as bishop in Fall River. He retired in 2003 after turning 75.
The suit brought by Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, is not the first in which Garabedian has alleged lax supervision by Cronin. In 2003, he filed 70 lawsuits alleging abuse in the Boston archdiocese, including two suits that named Cronin.
Lawyers for Cronin and the diocese have asked that the new case be dismissed, saying it should have been brought in Massachusetts, not Connecticut. Although some of the alleged abuse took place in Connecticut, "the defendant is not Monsignor Souza, but rather his employer and supervisor," lawyers for the diocese wrote, asserting that all of the allegations related to Souza's employment and supervision are rooted in Massachusetts.