Greenwich monsignor’s high accomplishments hid dark secrets
By Robert Marchant
September 22, 2019
|Monsignor William Genuario|
Monsignor William Genuario reached the heights of prominence and prestige as a clergyman and Catholic church leader.
He socialized with members of the Bush family visiting Greenwich. As a respected opinion-leader, he was often quoted on current events and depictions of the church. He was a regular visitor to the Vatican, where he earned an advanced degree. The monsignor was the longtime pastor at St. Catherine’s of Siena in Riverside, one of the largest and most visible parishes in the region.
But Genuario has been cast in another light in recent weeks, as the Diocese of Bridgeport has revealed new information about him, following testimony, that he had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Genuario died in 2015 in Stamford at the age of 84.
In 2002 and 2004, when claims of abuse from decades ago were made against Genuario, the Diocesan Review Board inquired but did not find credibility regarding the allegations. That changed earlier this month, said diocese spokesman, Brian Wallace, when the review board looked at the testimony of another person who came forward in 2017, regarding an account of sexual abuse that reportedly took place in 1987.
That is the year Genuario was installed in St. Catherine’s in Greenwich. Diocesan officials have not released details about the alleged 1987 incident, including its location. The diocese is preparing to release a comprehensive report on abuse incidents in early October.
The latest developments in the long-running case sent shock waves through Greenwich, and elsewhere.
The Rev. William Platt, the current pastor of St. Catherine’s, wrote a response to the announcement, more of a personal reflection than an official statement, according to the parish administration.
“When recently I received a phone call from the Diocesan attorney that the sexual abuse charges against Msgr. Genuario, once not considered credible were now considered credible, I became sick to my stomach - complete with ‘dry heaves.’ The attorney advised me that a letter was being drafted for me to read at all the Masses on the next Sunday - two days away,” Platt wrote. He had the difficult assignment of reading the letter for the parishioners on multiple occasions, he wrote, and it was deeply painful experience.
“At this moment, I am essentially grieving. I am grieving for those who had been abused by Msgr. Genuario. I am grieving the effect that this sin and crime will have upon his legacy. I am grieving the impact that this crisis has had upon my priesthood. I am grieving for the People of God who once again need to hear this sort of news. The only things that have assuaged my grief are the hugs that I received after all the Masses, the vigilance of the Diocese that such abuse won’t happen again and the continued faith in Jesus Christ of the Faithful,” Platt continued.
Following the 2002 and 2004 accusations, the diocese paid out $20,000 to settle the case, despite the fact that the review board did not find credibility with the abuse allegations.
Tom Kelly, of Bridgeport, who had informed diocesan officials in April 2002 he had been abused by Genuario in 1967, when Kelly was 13, earlier this month said the new statement by the diocese gives him a form of vindication, although it took 17 years to happen.
“I don’t want to be vindictive, all I wanted was vindication, but perhaps the bishop should be apologizing to the victims of abuse rather than to parishioners,” Kelly said.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said that when another person came forward in 2017 with a new allegation of abuse against Genuario, he ordered all of the allegations against the priest to be reviewed again.
The review board found that wrongdoing had taken place.
“After a full review, the Board has recommended a finding of credibility. I concur with their finding and accept their recommendation,” wrote Caggiano, in an announcement sent out this month.
Wallace, the diocese spokesman, said Caggiano had ordered a full and comprehensive review of all allegations, including those involving priests who were deceased.
“He empowered the review board to go back and look over past allegations, and make sure if there was new information available,” Wallace said. “Monsignor Genuario falls in that category. ... We received a new allegation in 2017. It could not be immediately reviewed. When the victim did come forward, recently the diocese was able to work with the victim, and re-empowered the review board to review the case with new testimony, and based on that testimony, Monsignor Genuario was added to the list of credibly accused.”
The latest allegations date to 1987. “This was someone who had not come forward previously. The review board determined it was sexual abuse of a minor, and it was found credible,” the spokesman said. The location was not disclosed.
Genuario was in the inner circle of church leadership for years. He was born and raised in Norwalk, the son of an Italian immigrant, and ordained a priest in 1956. He earned a doctorate in canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome.
In 1978 he became vicar general of the diocese, a position of high responsibility. He was promoted to the highest rank of monsignor in 1986 by Pope John Paul II, and was the pastor at St. Catherine’s for 17 years until his retirement in 2004.
Retired state Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg has been finalizing an extensive report on the abuse scandal in southern Connecticut, and it is expected to be released in October. Wallace said that the bishop had called for a maximum approach to redress past wrongs and provide a full accounting.
“This was a crisis not only in the diocese, but in the international church,” Wallace said. “The bishop took very strong leadership, and the report will be the culmination of that.”