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  Priest Still on Job Monsignor Admits Abusing Girls in Trumbull in 1960s, '70s

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post
April 19, 2002

Bridgeport - Although Diocese of Bridgeport officials confirm that Monsignor Gregory Smith has admitted sexually abusing two teen-age girls in the late 1960s and '70s, he continues to work at a local church and Sacred Heart University.

In an interview Thursday with the Connecticut Post, Bishop William E. Lori contended that his decision to keep Smith in active service is not a violation of the diocese's sexual-abuse policy.

Peggy Fry of Monroe, who says she was abused by Smith as a teen-ager, says she has waited more than 30 years for justice.

But she says she didn't get it after meeting recently with Lori. After a story about her case appeared in the Post last month, Lori agreed to meet with the Monroe woman and her husband on March 25 at the Catholic Center.

At that meeting, Fry said Lori told her he had met with Smith, now at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish on Ortega Street, and that Smith admitted abusing not only Fry, but another girl at St. Teresa's Church in Trumbull in the 1960s and '70s.

"He said Monsignor Smith was very repentant, tearful and Bishop Lori suggested that I have a private meeting with Smith in which he would apologize to me," Fry said. "It would be behind closed doors."

On Thursday, Lori said Smith was suspended in 1997 after allegations were made in a lawsuit that he had abused Fry. Smith was then sent for psychiatric evaluation, the bishop said. "And the evaluation came back that it was OK for him to go back into ministry," he added. "The diocese's policy does not say no priest will never be restored for any reason."

Asked if he is certain that Smith is not a danger to other teen-agers, the bishop retorted, "We are not talking about pedophilia here, we are talking about people who were very near attaining the age of majority and, while that kind of behavior is never appropriate, I don't have evidence of a string of victims."

Fry said that during her meeting with Lori she told the bishop a private apology would not be adequate.

"I felt this was just perpetuating the sins of the past," she said. "I want people to know that Smith has admitted what he had done to me, that I have not been making it up all these years."

Two days after the meeting, Fry wrote a letter to Lori stating she wanted Smith laicized -- a liturgical term meaning that his priestly powers are revoked -- with a full public apology and admission of guilt by Smith.

She said she also wants former Bridgeport Bishop Edward M. Egan, now the cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York, and Monsignor William Genuario to publicly admit their alleged roles in covering up her abuse.

Fry said she told Genuario about the abuse at least 10 years ago, when Egan was bishop of the Bridgeport diocese, and the other girl told him in 1969, when she was abused.

Fry said she insisted on setting up another meeting with the bishop to address her demands. On April 8, Fry and her husband and the other woman who said she was abused by Smith met with the bishop and Monsignor Laurence Bronkiewicz, the diocesan Episcopal vicar, at the Catholic Center.

At this meeting, the other woman told her story of abuse at the hands of Smith. Fry said she then asked Lori if he would respond to her letter.

"He told me with this additional information he was not prepared to respond to me at this time. He had to do a thorough investigation. He said, I do have a diocese to run,' " according to Fry.

On April 14, she said she spoke to Bronkiewicz by telephone and he reiterated that Smith had admitted abusing her and the other woman, but that the investigation was still taking place.

In the meantime, Smith continues to work at Our Lady of Good Counsel and SHU, a diocesan institution, where he is listed as director of religious education and pastoral studies.

As to Fry's claims that she had told Genuario about the abuse more than a decade ago, the bishop said, "We should have made outreach to Peg and a lot of people a long time ago. I'm very sorry we didn't make outreach to Peg or anyone else."

Fry, who claims she was molested by Smith when she was 16 and 17, was a member of the youth group at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull.

Raised in a devout Catholic family, Fry said her mother encouraged her to go on trips and to spend time with Smith.

"She often said God had picked me because Monsignor Smith wanted to spend time with me," she said.

Fry said that when she later complained to Genuario about the alleged abuse, he told her to pray for forgiveness.

 
 

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