Hartford Courant [Hartford CT]
May 5, 2021
By Zach Murdock
The Archdiocese of Hartford paid another six-figure settlement this spring to a Connecticut man who credibly accused former priest Kenneth P. Bonadies of sexually abusing him in the 1980s while he was a high school student in Manchester, attorney Mitchell Garabedian announced Wednesday morning.
The now 53-year-old man, whom Garabedian did not identify publicly, was sexually abused “relentlessly” starting when he was 14 years old in 1981 until 1985, while he was a student and Bonadies a teacher at East Catholic High School in Manchester, Garabedian said.
The man reported his claims to the church earlier this year and agreed to an out-of-court settlement after mediation in the “low six figures,” though the man declined to say the exact total of the settlement.
“I feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction that it’s been exposed and it’s known about,” the man said by phone Wednesday morning. “I think it’s important that everyone knows so healing can begin … I think there’s a lot of healing in bringing it out into the open.”
The archdiocese declined to comment on the case Wednesday, citing a longstanding policy not to discuss legal matters or settlements, however, it did add Bonadies’ name this week to its online directory of credibly accused clergy members that was published in early 2019 after a review of church records found the diocese had at that point paid $50.6 million to settle more than 140 priest sexual abuse claims since 1953.
The addition of Bonadies this week brings the total number of accused to 49, including one priest who had 20 credible abuse claims made against him, those records show. Attempts to reach Bonadies, who now lives in Florida, were unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon.
Bonadies’ abuse of the then-teenage boy began in 1981 when he was a priest at St. Bartholomew Church in Manchester, said Garabedian, whose decadeslong crusade against clergy sexual abuse was made famous by the groundbreaking Boston Globe investigation of the church later portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight.”
It continued when Bonadies began working at East Catholic High School, where he taught music and Latin and directed the school theater and choir groups, Garabedian said.
“My client was sexually abused for four years, over 100 times, by Father Bonadies,” Garabedian said during a news conference in front of the archdiocese’s Hartford offices Wednesday morning. “In the rectory of St. Bartholomew’s Church, Father Bonadies’ office at East Catholic High School, in Father Bonadies’ car. It was relentless, the way he sexually abused him continuously.”
Church records show Bonadies, who grew up in Hartford, was ordained in 1965 and first assigned to parishes in the Diocese of Steubenville in Ohio. He worked in various capacities there through 1975 and then was listed as “absent on leave” for four years until he returned to St. Bartholomew’s in 1980.
The status “absent on leave” has in other cases indicated years in which priests accused of sexual abuse were sent to treatment centers before they were moved to other parishes, Garabedian noted.
In 1987, Bonadies moved to St. Ann in Hamden, where he served until his retirement at the end of 2004 — before any claims of abuse were received by the archdiocese, church records show.
At least one other person may have accused Bonadies of sexual abuse because church records indicate a civil court case is pending regarding the matter and the man represented by Garabedian never filed a formal complaint in court. Records regarding that civil case were not immediately available and a church representative noted the archdiocese will not comment on litigation.
The man who received the settlement this spring said he did not come forward sooner because of feelings of shame and fear, feelings experienced by many survivors of sexual abuse as children. With friends’ encouragement, however, he decided to pursue his claims to raise awareness about the long history of sexual abuse in the church and encourage other victims to come forward.
He confronted Bonadies about the abuse himself in a phone call in 1989, he recalled Wednesday. Bonadies was uncomfortable, though not hostile, but did not apologize, he said.
“He’s a nice guy, actually, a jovial kind of guy,” the man said. “But in my opinion this was a part of his life he just gave himself over to … I just feel bad for him.
“I’m satisfied [with the settlement] in the sense that I think justice is being done. I think that’s a great thing that’s helpful for all victims.”
Zach Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.