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  Hartford Diocese Mum on Sex Suits
Priest Abuse Cases Stuck in State Court

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post [Bridgeport]
August 3, 2003

Today, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford begins its second half-century of service to the largest population of Roman Catholics in the state. But it does so dragging more than a dozen cases of sexual abuse by its priests behind it.

While both the dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich have bent under mounting public pressure, and settled or are working to settle their priest abuse cases, Hartford continues slowly to push its cases through the state court system, playing "hardball" with victims' lawyers.

The archdiocese of Hartford includes parishes in Milford, the Naugatuck Valley and New Haven County. Currently, 18 lawsuits accusing priests of abuse are pending against the archdiocese in state courts.

In contrast, Bridgeport Bishop William Lori has agreed to meet with victims, and Bridgeport and Norwich diocesan officials are working with U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkle to settle cases. But Hartford Archbishop Daniel Cronin has done neither.

Lori has also publicly released the names of priests in the Bridgeport diocese who have been suspended as a result of abuse allegations.

Hartford Archdiocese spokesman Rev. John P. Gatzak acknowledges that three of its priests have been suspended or relieved of their duties since January 2002 because of complaints of abuse. However, he added, "Out of respect for the rights of privacy, confidentiality and the reputations of the individuals involved, we are unable to provide their names."

The Hartford Archdiocese was also slow to report complaints of abuse to the state Department of Children and Families, only doing so in May 2002 under pressure from the state agency.

"Frankly, I don't understand what the archdiocese is doing," said Jason Tremont, whose Bridgeport law firm, Tremont and Sheldon, represents 13 people who claim to have been abused by seven priests in the archdiocese since the late 1960s. "This certainly is not helping their public image."

New Haven lawyer Thomas MacNamara has filed three lawsuits against the archdiocese on behalf of clients and is working on five others.

"In the long run, a settlement would be best for my clients, but if we have to go to trial I think we will be very, very successful," he said.

Hubert Santos, a Hartford lawyer who represents three men who claim they were abused, agreed that a mediated settlement would be "in everyone's interest."

Gatzak said they have settled six complaints of abuse since January 2002, but he would not provide any information on the settlements.

"The archdiocese is currently working to set up a mediation process that will be similar to what Bridgeport has done," he said.

So far eight priests in the archdiocese have been publicly accused of abusing children since the late 1960s. Tremont said he in investigating claims against two other priests who he is not naming at this time.

One of the most notorious of these priests is Rev. Thomas F. Glynn, who died in January 1993.

A Bridgeport native, Glynn served in churches in New Haven, Bristol, Wallingford, East Haven and Meriden before he retired in 1988.

He has been accused of molesting eight boys since the 1960s.

the accounts of his alleged victims, Glynn enjoyed a lavish lifestyle and had a large cottage on the beach in East Haven where he entertained other priests, nuns and local officials. His "boys" played the role of cook, bartender and in some cases the door prize for the parties.

Kevin P. Zile, who claims he was molested repeatedly by Glynn, wrote a letter to the archdiocese in July 2002.

"As far as the archdiocese is concerned it had no knowledge of Father Glynn's propensities prior to the time of your alleged abuse. Thus, it cannot be faulted for his misconduct," replied Sister Helen Margaret Feeney, the archbishop's delegate for special needs. She did, however, offer him counseling.

The Rev. Daniel F. McSheffery was honored in 1972 when the mayor of Hartford declared a day in his honor. But in that same year he is accused of molesting at least four boys at St. Augustine School in Hartford.

Three lawsuits have been filed against the archdiocese and a fourth is in the works over the allegations against McSheffery.

McSheffery was suspended in June 2002 after one of his alleged victims made a complaint to the New Haven state's attorney.

Gatzak refused to disclose McSheffery's current location and status.

The Rev. Stephen C. Foley was chaplain of the Hartford Fire Department and pastor of Christ the King Church in Bloomfield in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he is accused of molesting at least two boys.

Both Tremont and MacNamara said they have evidence that archdiocese officials knew in the 1960s that Foley was abusing children but did nothing.

MacNamara said the father of one of his clients went to archdiocesan officials at that time to complain that Foley had abused a boy at the father's ambulance company.

"Father Foley used his position as a priest and Fire Department chaplain to befriend children, get them alone and abuse them," said Tremont, who represents John Collins, who claims in a lawsuit he was abused by Foley. "The Archdiocese of Hartford was aware of Father Foley's inappropriate behavior in the late 1960s yet let him continue to have access to children."

Gatzak would not disclose Foley's status or location.

The Rev. Louis Paturzo was hailed last year for his work with Hartford gangs, prison inmates and Hartford middle school students. Then he was accused of molesting boys in the 1970s in Waterbury and Hamden.

Paturzo, who also served at Assumption Church in Ansonia, is accused of abusing a 13-year-old altar boy at Sacred Heart Church in Waterbury in the mid 1970s and a 12-year-old altar boy at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hamden in 1977.

Cindy Robinson, of Tremont and Sheldon, represents the Hamden victim.

She said the boy met with Paturzo in the basement of Blessed Sacrament for altar boy training. Paturzo began tickling the boy and then wrestled him down to the floor where he allegedly began what she said was "dry humping" the boy through his clothing.

She said Paturzo later molested the boy after Mass and again in the principal's office at the school.

The boy told his father what happened and the father complained to the pastor of the church, Robinson said. But nothing was done.

Paturzo was put on administrative leave last year, but his location is not being disclosed by the archdiocese.

In the 1970s, the Rev. Raymond Paul was chaplain at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury. During that time he has been accused of molesting two boys.

One of the victims, who agreed to an interview with the Connecticut Post on condition his name not be used, claims he was helpless in bed while Paul allegedly masturbated him on a nightly basis.

Sources said the archdiocese settled a similar case by another man, however, Gatzak said they are not aware of that.

Paul would go on to serve in churches in Seymour and Ansonia. Gatzak would not disclose his current status or location.

The Rev. Kenneth Shiner is accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a boy several times in the early 1980s at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New Britain.

Robinson, who represents the victim, said her client was 13 or 14 years old and an altar boy at the church at the time. She said the priest befriended the boy and his family and would have the boy stay over night in his room at the rectory.

Robinson said it was during these sleepovers that the priest sexually abused the boy.

Shiner was later transferred to St. Elizabeth Church in Branford and St. Mary's Church in Unionville.

He was pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Suffield until last year.

Contact: dtepfer@ctpost.com

 
 

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