Church, Diocese Dropped from Abuse Lawsuit

By Gary Gentile
Hartford (CT) Courant
October 31, 1995

Vernon, CT - Two brothers who have said said they were sexually abused by the former pastor of Sacred Heart Church have dropped their lawsuit against the church and the Diocese of Norwich.

Mark and Matthew Nutt had been appealing a U.S. District Court judge's July decision that removed the church and the diocese as defendants in the civil lawsuit. The two brothers say the Rev. Thomas J. Doyle abused them from the time they were 14 years old.

But Holly Abery-Wetstone, an attorney for the brothers, withdrew the appeal Monday. She said she is satisfied that no one in authority in the diocese or Sacred Heart Church knew about the possibility of abuse until after Matthew Nutt filed a formal complaint with the diocese in 1992.

"The plaintiffs are satisfied with the response of the diocese by immediately removing Father Doyle from his position at Sacred Heart Church and are very comfortable and confident of the efforts Father [Stan] Szczapa made to educate and counsel members of the Sacred Heart parish," Abery-Wetstone said in a statement Monday.

The brothers are still pursuing their claim against Doyle; the Marianist Society, Doyle's religious order; and a Catholic priest and a Franciscan friar from Brooklyn, N.Y., who the brothers say knew about the abuse but failed to report it.

Joseph T. Sweeney, the attorney for the diocese and Sacred Heart Church, said the decision to drop the appeal came after Abery-Wetstone interviewed former Norwich Bishop Daniel P. Reilly; the Rev. John J. White, pastor of St. Bernard's parish in Vernon, where Doyle served from 1976 to 1978; and Szczapa. Those interviews occurred as part of the appeal process.

"I think he [Reilly] demonstrated that no one had a reason to suspect or believe that this was going on," Sweeney said Monday.

In her statement, Abery-Wetstone said the Nutt brothers hope the "healing process begun at Sacred Heart Parish with Father Szczapa will spread and offer a shining example of how these issues can be resolved."

The appeal was withdrawn "with prejudice," meaning the court's decision to drop the diocese and church as defendants cannot be appealed again. In exchange for the withdrawal, Sweeney said, his clients agreed not to file a counterclaim against the Nutt brothers for "suing us without probable cause."

Sweeney said his clients also agreed not to sue Abery-Wetstone for public comments he described as "very offensive."

The comments were made in response to the federal judge's decision to exclude the diocese and parish from the lawsuit. In her statement Monday, Abery- Wetstone said she is "satisfied that the actions of the diocese and Sacred Heart do not make the Sacred Heart Church or the diocese a haven for pedophiles."


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