Bishop Named in More than 30 Lawsuits

By Associated Press
March 17, 2002

Worcester, MA - The Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester has been named in more than 30 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by priests previously under his charge in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Many of the lawsuits in which Bishop Daniel P. Reilly is named allege that the church responded to complaints by reassigning priests to other parishes.

None of the suits suggest that Reilly himself was involved in any sexual misconduct during his tenure as chancellor of the Diocese of Providence, R.I., his 27 years as bishop of the Norwich, Conn., and Worcester dioceses.

In an interview with the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Bishop Reilly said that during his time in Providence and Norwich, he was not personally involved in the reassignment of priests accused of sexual abuse.

The Rev. John Bagley and the Rev. Lee F. Bartlett were recently removed from active assignments in the Worcester Diocese. Bishop Reilly said the removals proved that the diocese takes seriously charges of sexual abuse by its priests.

"I think the way we're handling it is pretty good," he said. "We're following the law, we're dealing with the authorities. We're trying to help the victims."

Last month, Bishop Reilly announced a no-tolerance policy for abuse that will require priests, church workers and volunteers to report incidents of suspected child abuse to the state.

Bishop Reilly is named in at least 28 lawsuits - all but one of which are pending - alleging abuse by clergy in the Providence diocese. Four clergy sexual abuse suits were filed in Norwich during Bishop Reilly's tenure there; two of those have since been thrown out of court.

One lawsuit pending in Connecticut alleges that diocese officials placed a known sex offender in a parish ministry.

Among court documents filed with the lawsuit is a letter Monsignor Thomas Bride of the Norwich Diocese wrote to Bishop Reilly recommending that sexual abuse defendant Rev. Richard T. Buongirno not be placed in a parish ministry.

Rev. Buongirno is being sued by a man who alleges that he was abused in 1990 when he was 9 years old by the priest. The plaintiff's lawyer says Rev. Buongirno later sexually assaulted two other boys.

Bishop Reilly said Rev. Buongirno was told to undergo treatment after information surfaced about the 1990 assaults, and he was not reassigned to a parish until after Bishop Reilly left the diocese.

Rev. Buongirno has since been removed from the priesthood.

A Norwich Superior Court judge began hearing arguments regarding the case last week.

Another pending suit against the Norwich Diocese was brought by a New Mexico man who alleges sexual abuse by the Rev. Bernard W. Bissonnette.

Rev. Bissonnette had been sent for treatment to a Jemez, N.M. facility operated by a religious order called The Servants of the Paraclete, which treats priests who are sexually abusive, suffer from addictions or have other afflictions.

A December 1998 ruling in New Mexico Court of Appeals found that the New Mexico man could sue the Norwich diocese. The Norwich Diocese appealed, and the New Mexico Supreme Court is reviewing the appeal.

The Rev. Bissonnette was a central figure in the case of Putnam native Thomas Deary, who suffered from mental illness and committed suicide in 1991 at the age of 44.

Bishop Reilly said Saturday that Deary told him he had been molested in 1962 by Rev. Bissonnette. The bishop said he referred Deary for counseling by a priest-therapist and met with him a number of times.

Thomas Deary's suicide, Bishop Reilly said, was troubling. "Of course, I was upset," he said, saying Deary "struggled to have a normal life."

Neither Deary nor his family filed a lawsuit, although Deary's brother says he unsuccessfully attempted to have Bissonnette removed.

Of 28 known lawsuits in Rhode Island, just one was settled, in 1991. The lawsuits name 13 priests, including Robert Marcantonio, who was later accused of sexually abusing an altar boy in Iowa.

Rev. Marcantonio's accuser alleges then-Chancellor Reilly was notified by mail in 1970 that the priest had sexually abused more than two dozen boys previously.

After Rev. Marcantonio went to Iowa to attend college, Chancellor Reilly wrote to a monsignor in Iowa in 1971 to thank him for hospitality shown to "one of our priests, Father Robert Marcantonio."

Rev. Marcantonio earned master's and doctoral degrees in psychology form Iowa State College, then returned to Rhode Island in 1975. Afterward, he was accused of molesting several more boys at a Cumberland, R.I., parish.

"They're all linked together, and they cover a whole period of years, a number of them after I left the diocese," Bishop Reilly said. "Others may have gone on while I was there, but I wasn't involved in that sort of thing."

"When that assignment (Cumberland) came, I think I was out of the diocese," he added. "So, that's something that I didn't have any control over."

Correction: In a March 17 story about a lawsuit against the Rev. Richard T. Buongirno, filed by a man who alleges that the priest abused him in 1990, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the plaintiff's lawyer said Buongirno later sexually assaulted two other boys.

The lawyer did not say the two boys had been sexually assaulted. He said the two boys, in separate incidents, had been found in the priest's room, and that the priest was reassigned after each event.

No lawsuits or criminal charges were filed in connection with either incident.


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