Hartford Catholic Diocese settles sexual abuse lawsuit
By Jim Mckeever
February 10, 2016
NEW HAVEN — A lawsuit involving allegations of clergy sex abuse with a minor and an alleged cover-up in the Catholic Church was settled Wednesday for $500,000.
Just weeks before the trial involving a former Connecticut-based Catholic priest, Stephen Bzdyra, was to begin, the Diocese agreed to settle the claim.
For the past five years, the Diocese fully contested liability, denying knowledge of sexual and physical abuse that was committed by Bzdyra.
The defense was compromised when a Catholic nun testified that while serving at St. Francis Church in New Haven, she not only witnessed Bzdyra’s disturbing and inappropriate behavior towards an altar boy in the mid-1980s, but she even sent a letter to diocesan authorities expressing her concerns.
The suit alleges that Bzdyra beat and sexually abused an altar boy between 1985 and 1990 at St. Francis Church in New Haven and St. Hedwig Church in Naugatuck.
Bzdyra allegedly bought his accuser items including a car in an attempt to keep him quiet.
The archdiocese placed him on administrative leave in 2010.
“The plaintiff’s position has always been that the Diocese should have taken action to eliminate Bzdyra’s ongoing and serious threat to children within the Diocese—especially to our client William Dotson – who Bzdyra repeatedly sexually abused over the course of several years,” said Attorney Timothy P. Pothin of Faxon Law Group in New Haven in a statement released Wednesday.
“One source of comfort for the plaintiff is that upon commencement of this case the Diocese took Bzdyra out of circulation, as he was a fully active priest until that time,” said partner Joel T. Faxon of Faxon Law Group in the statement. “This is the only time in my 20-year career where we were able to actually have a pedophile priest put on the shelf, which protected any number of children from potential abuse.”
According to Pothin, the diocese didn’t conduct any meaningful investigation of the pedophile priest and said they confirmed they didn’t contact the nun who made the report back in the 1980s.