Hamden priest accused of sexually abusing woman reassigned while facing lawsuit, officials say

CT Insider [Norwalk CT]

June 4, 2023

By Peter Yankowski

A Catholic priest accused in a lawsuit of sexual misconduct while serving at a Torrington church nearly three years ago has been assigned to “non-parish duties” at the Hamden parish where he now serves, officials said Saturday. 

The priest, the Rev. Mauricio Galvis, is a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden, according to the church’s website. The lawsuit alleges Galvis exposed himself to a woman in his office while serving at St. John Paul the Great Parish in Torrington.

“In order to allay any concerns that parishioners may have about Fr. Galvis, he is being assigned to non-parish duties while his civil case alleging sexual misconduct with an adult awaits adjudication,” according to a statement released Saturday by officials with the Archdiocese of Hartford, which oversees both churches. 

It is unclear when or why Galvis moved from the church in Torrington to the Hamden congregation. 

A lawyer representing Galvis did not respond to a request for comment.

A lawyer representing the woman who is the plaintiff in the lawsuit accusing Galvis of misconduct also did not respond to a message seeking comment. Hearst Connecticut Media is not publishing her name.

In addition to Galvis, the suit also names as defendants the Archdiocese of Hartford, Archbishop Leonard Blair, and the Rev. Emmanuel Ihemedu, pastor of the Torrington parish who oversaw Galvis at the time.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Hartford declined to comment, citing a policy against commenting on pending litigation. A lawyer representing the Archdiocese, Blair and Ihemedu also declined to comment.

The statement from church officials with the Archdiocese of Hartford was told to parishioners Saturday during an afternoon vigil Mass at St. John Paul the Great Parish.

The suit alleges that on Sept. 22, 2020, Galvis “manipulated” the woman, who was a parishioner and member of a church committee, to go into his office in the pastoral center.

While inside his office, the priest “engaged in various sex acts on the plaintiff” without her consent, exposing himself to her and forcing her to touch him, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit claims the plaintiff “suffered and continues to suffer injuries of a serious and permanent nature,” including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression along with other physical and mental health issues.

The suit claims church officials failed to supervise Galvis, did not report him to authorities and failed to immediately remove him “upon learning of the allegations of sexual abuse.” 

The suit, filed last September in state Superior Court in Torrington, asks for an unspecified amount of monetary damages that exceeds $15,000. 

In January, the archdiocese, archbishop and Ihemedu requested a summary judgment, essentially asking for a judge to rule on their liability in the suit without a trial. 

“The plaintiff claims that she was injured when, on one occasion, a priest with whom she had a friendly social relationship made a sexual advance that was unexpected and unwelcome,” Hartford attorney Jacob Riley wrote in a memo accompanying the motion on behalf of the three defendants. He also noted the plaintiff in the case was an adult at the time she alleges the sexual assault occurred. 

He wrote that the archdiocese, archbishop and pastor were moving for summary judgment “based on the total absence of any known history of sexually abusive behavior on the part of Galvis,” and claimed the defendants “had no legal duty to the plaintiff, an adult, to protect her from the intentional act of another.”

“In other words, nothing these defendants did or did not do caused the plaintiff harm,” he wrote in the court filing. 

The filing includes affidavits from Blair, Ihemedu, and Christopher Ford, a priest who serves as the custodian of records of the Archdiocese of Hartford. Each claimed they had never heard of Galvis engaging in sexual abuse.

Ihemedu stated in his affidavit that the only suggestion of misconduct involving Galvis came from the woman who filed the lawsuit. The woman told him in July 2020 that “she had heard from other parishioners that Galvis had been seen ‘making out’ with a woman in a parked car,” Ihemedu said in the affidavit. 

He said Galvis denied that allegation, and he deemed the report “not credible” after asking the woman to identify the people who claimed to have seen it. She never did, Ihemedu said in the deposition. 

In the court filing, Ford said Galvis came to the United States from Colombia in 2008 to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in Hartford by Blair in 2015 after studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland.

Written By Peter Yankowski – Peter Yankowski is a breaking news reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media Group. He was previously a reporter for the Danbury News-Times and the Ridgefield Press.