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  Bridgeport Catholic Diocese Revokes Priest's Authority

By Gerald Renner
Hartford Courant
March 10, 1993

The Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport announced Tuesday that it has revoked the authority of a priest who has been accused of sexually abusing 15 young people.

Monday, the priest, the Rev. Raymond S. Pcolka, walked out of a psychiatric institute, where he has been since a lawsuit was filed against him eight weeks ago, the diocese said. The institute was not identified.

Joseph Sweeney, a Hartford lawyer who represents the diocese, said the priest was absent without leave.

"Basically, he checked himself out. This was against the advice of the professional staff and the bishop, who told him to stay there," Sweeney said. "The diocese felt a responsibility to notify the community that it has no responsibility for what he might do from now on."

The diocese announced that "it has removed from Father Pcolka any power or authority to function or to act as a Catholic priest, and that it disclaims any responsibility" for the priest's actions "from this day forward."

Pcolka, 53, has been sued by 15 adults who say he raped and sodomized them at parishes in Stratford and Bridgeport while they were children. They say the attacks took place between 1966 and 1982.

"It seems to me the press release is an attempt by the diocese to reduce its liability," said T. Paul Tremont, a Bridgeport lawyer who represents 13 of the plaintiffs.

Pcolka was suspended in January from his duties as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Greenwich pending an investigation and sent to the psychiatric institute for evaluation.

The lawsuits name the priest and the diocese as defendants. Tremont said, "The diocese has had prior knowledge of his actions," but failed to take any action.

The diocese disputes that. "One thing to be certain is the diocese had no reason to suspect these things had been going on, if they had been going on," Sweeney said.

Tremont said that he has asked the court to order Pcolka to give a deposition, something he has resisted.

"Now they are claiming that they don't know his whereabouts, just as the court is ready to rule," Tremont said.

Sweeney said, "I've known soldiers who have gone AWOL [and returned]. I just hope and pray it has a happy ending, at least not an unhappy ending."

Although Pcolka's authority, or license, to function as a priest has been revoked, he remains a priest and has not been defrocked. Only the pope can end someone's status as a priest.

Because an estimated 400 priests have been accused of pedophilia in the past 10 years, the U.S. Catholic bishops recently petitioned the Vatican for the authority to expel those involved from the priesthood.

 
 

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