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  Priest Abuse Complaints on Prosecutors' Agenda

By Edmund H. Mahony
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
February 19, 2002

Prosecutors in Connecticut are aware of no pending complaints of sexual abuse against Roman Catholic clergy in the state but will decide soon whether a flurry of accusations elsewhere in New England merits local investigation.

Chief State's Attorney John Bailey said Monday that prosecutors have not yet discussed the subject with church officials. Neither have Catholic officials in Connecticut offered law enforcement authorities lists of abuse complaints against priests, as the church has done in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

But Bailey said the abuse complaints elsewhere in New England are on the agenda for discussion at the March 4 meeting of Connecticut's regional state's attorneys, who have authority to decide what allegations to prosecute in their judicial districts.

Catholic Church offices were closed in Connecticut Monday, and most church officials familiar with matters such as complaints against priests could not be reached.

Monsignor Charles Johnson, who administers personnel matters for the Archdiocese of Hartford, would not discuss the subject.

"No comment is what our lawyers feel is appropriate to the situation," Johnson said.

Abuse allegations involving adult priests and boys have surfaced sporadically in Connecticut in the past decade, but have never approached the pitch of scandal now consuming the office of Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston.

A series of pedophilia complaints against defrocked priest John Geoghan revealed that the church in Boston routinely covered up abuse allegations against priests by transferring the priests to new parishes.

After weeks of controversy, the Archdiocese of Boston searched through 40 years of complaint records against priests. The church then gave Massachusetts prosecutors the names of more than 80 active and retired priests and suspended eight from duty.

Immediately afterward, the church in Maine publicly disclosed allegations of abuse against two priests and said it may make similar disclosures concerning other priests, even if they are no longer active. In New Hampshire, on Friday, the church gave prosecutors the names of 14 priests accused of molesting children during the 25-year period ending in 1987.

New Hampshire and Maine fall under the administrative purview of the Archdiocese of Boston. Connecticut does not.

One pending civil lawsuit in Connecticut involves a priest who has served at six parishes.

Kevin Dumais, 35, of New Britain, says the Rev. Kenneth H. Shiner sexually abused him on numerous occasions between 1980 and 1984, while Shiner was pastor of St. Francis of Assisi.

 
 

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