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  Bridgeport Bishop Apologizes after Priest Arrested in Sex Sting

By John Christoffersen
Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 29, 2001

Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori apologized to high school students Tuesday in response to the arrest last week of their spiritual director in an Internet sex sting.

Authorities in Westchester County, N.Y., said the Rev. John J. Castaldo, 42, engaged in sexually explicit online conversations during April and May. Castaldo said he was a gym teacher, gave out his phone number and described the explicit sexual activity he wanted to engage in to an undercover agent posing as a 14-year-old boy, authorities said.

He was charged with trying to send indecent material to a minor, which is punishable by up to four years in prison. Castaldo was arrested and arraigned Thursday and released without bail.

Castaldo was chaplain for the 425 students at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. The diocese immediately relieved Castaldo of his assignment at Trinity Catholic and as a resident priest at St. Maurice Parish in Stamford.

Castaldo was supposed to celebrate a Mass Tuesday for graduating seniors, but Lori took his place because of the arrest.

"I wanted to be present to you tonight to pray with you, to encourage you, to share your joy but also to share your sorrow," Lori said in his homily. "I also want to come before you to assure you of my deep concern, to offer you my sincerest apologies, and to express my bedrock commitment to respond to this situation as openly and fairly as I can - aided, of course, by your prayers and your support."

In a news conference following the Mass, Lori acknowledged that students might feel betrayed over the arrest.

"Many of them loved Father Castaldo very much," Lori said.

The diocese had not received previous complaints of sexual misconduct involving Castaldo, Lori said. Counselors have been meeting with students, but no evidence has emerged of sexual misconduct at Trinity Catholic, Lori said.

Jimmy Marini, an 18-year-old senior, said after Mass the arrest cast "a little" shadow over the graduation.

"Everyone thinks it's sort of sick," Marini said.

Lori said the arrest should not cloud the achievements of the Class of 2001.

Castaldo had been at Trinity Catholic for two years. Before that, he served at parishes in Newtown and New Fairfield, diocese officials said.

Castaldo's arrest follows a civil financial settlement in March of lawsuits filed against the Bridgeport Diocese over an eight-year period by 26 plaintiffs. The claims involved allegations of sexual abuse by six priests beginning in the late 1960s and continuing until the early 1990s.

Most of the victims were altar boys or belonged to church youth organizations. Diocesan officials acknowledged abuse took place and apologized.

Lori, who was installed as bishop a week after the settlement, said at the time that one of his major responsibilities would be to promote healing after the settlement. He acknowledged that the latest allegation was a setback, but defended the diocese's existing policy for handling such cases.

"I wish there was a fail safe method," Lori said. "The church is not a collection of prefabricated saints."

 
 

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