30 File New Sex Assault Claims
Bridgeport Diocese Agrees to Let Magistrate Mediate Complaints
By Daniel Tepfer
October 18, 2002
BRIDGEPORT - More than 25 people have come forward in recent weeks claiming they were molested as children by 10 priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.
Diocesan officials, who have interviewed many of the accusers, on Thursday agreed to allow U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel to act as a mediator in an attempt to resolve the complaints.
The mediation attempt comes on the heels of separate settlements recently reached between the diocese and three men who claim that priests molested them.
And on Thursday the local law firm of Tremont and Sheldon filed lawsuits in Superior Court on behalf of five men who claim in an action separate from the other 25-plus complaints to have been abused as children by priests.
The new complaints, along with past settlements, brings the total to more than 55 people who claim to have been molested by priests in the diocese since the 1960s.
Cindy Robinson, of Tremont and Sheldon, which represents all the new complainants, said Thursday that she has so far been impressed with the way Bishop William Lori is handling the latest cases.
In contrast to former Bridgeport Bishop Edward Egan, now cardinal of New York City who has been accused of orchestrating a cover-up of the abuse cases and moving offending priests from parish to parish Robinson said Lori has directed diocese officials to interview complainants and agreed to Garfinkel's mediation.
"We look forward to the opportunity to sit down with the diocese and, with the help of Magistrate Judge Garfinkel, attempt to resolve these cases that have devastated so many young people's lives," said Jason Tremont, a principal in the law firm.
"The Diocese of Bridgeport has been cooperating fully with the attorneys of Tremont and Sheldon," said Michael T. Dolan, general counsel for the diocese. "We have interviewed the plaintiffs and offered a sincere apology and counseling services. They have also been invited to meet personally with Bishop William Lori."
Garfinkel was instrumental in the $15 million settlement the diocese paid last year to 24 people who claimed priests in the diocese abused them.
The two dozen people, many of them former altar boys and members of Catholic youth organizations, claimed they had been abused as children by priests in parishes in Bridgeport, Trumbull, Stratford and other areas of Fairfield County since the late 1970s.
The diocese agreed to the settlement after seven years of litigation.
Robinson said the diocese within the past three months agreed to settle claims by three men who said they were abused in the 1960s and early 1970s by Monsignor Charles W. Stubbs, Rev, Joseph P. Moore and Rev. Charles T. Carr in local parishes.
The diocese had previously suspended all three priests after complaints of abuse surfaced.
The settlements were funded through insurance reserves, diocesan spokesman Joseph McAleer said. Neither he nor Robinson would reveal details.
The 10 priests named by the 30-plus complainants include: Stubbs, Martin Federici, Alfred Bietighofer, Joseph Gorecki, Richard Grady, Joseph DeShan, William Donovan, Raymond Pcolka and two priests whose names the diocese would not disclose.
McAleer said one unnamed priest is a member of a religious order who has not been in active ministry since 1987, while the other is living in another diocese but is not functioning as a priest. He said the bishop of that diocese has been informed of the complaint against that priest.
Three have since died. Gorecki died in 1988 and Grady in 1993. Bietighofer hung himself earlier this year in his room at a Maryland psychiatric facility, where he was sent after he was accused of abusing five boys in Bridgeport in the 1970s.
Grady, whose name has not previously appeared in any abuse complaint, was previously pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Bridgeport and St. Leo Parish in Stamford.
The remaining priests, with the exception of DeShan, had been previously suspended as a result of abuse complaints.
DeShan in 1988 initiated a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl while assigned to St. Augustine's Cathedral. The girl became pregnant in 1989 and DeShan subsequently left the priesthood.
The woman lives with her daughter in Bridgeport while DeShan, who married another woman, is an elementary school teacher in Cinnaminson, N.J.
Robinson said the Bridgeport woman recently hired her firm to take legal action against the diocese.
Daniel Tepfer, who covers state courts and law enforcement issues, can be reached at 330-6308.
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