Files Show Norwich Diocese Told Former Priest Sought out Teen Boys

Hartford Courant [Norwich CT]
May 16, 2003

NORWICH, Conn. -- Personnel files of a priest accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in the late 1970s show a Toronto bishop had advised the Norwich Diocese that the priest was known to seek out teenage boys, WFSB-TV reported Friday.

A Middlesex Superior Court judge last month ordered the personnel files of the former Rev. Bruno Primavera released. The diocese had sought a protective order to keep them from public view.

The files included correspondence from an auxiliary bishop in Toronto to Norwich's then-Bishop Daniel Reilly, saying that Primavera displayed a "tendency to seek out the companionship of young teenage boys on a one-to-one basis," the television station reported.

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas B. Fulton wrote, "In one instance, although no public scandal resulted, his conduct was such that it was found advisable to transfer him to another parish."

The letter came after Primavera requested a move to Connecticut, where he then had family, WFSB-TV reported.

Primavera is accused of sexually abusing Michael Nelligan in 1977 and 1978, when Nelligan was 14 and 15 years old. Primavera was then a pastor at St. Mark's the Evangelist Church in Westbrook.

Nelligan is suing Primavera and the diocese. His lawsuit says the diocese and church officials disregarded complaints against Primavera.

Robert Reardon Jr., the lawyer representing Nelligan and another man who accuses Primavera of molesting him at a church in New London, criticized the Norwich Diocese for assigning Primavera to a youth group.

A lawyer for the church said the diocese was assured that the concerns raised about the priest were not of consequence and the church acted responsibly. A lawyer for Primavera said in court documents that his client never molested the boys, WFSB-TV reported.

Primavera was later sent to New Mexico, where he was a priest and counselor at New Mexico Military Institute. While in New Mexico, Primavera was arrested and convicted of felony sexual offense involving his students, Reardon said.

Joseph T. Sweeney, a lawyer representing the diocese, has said that Primavera was never an employee of the Norwich Diocese.

Sweeney said Primavera worked on a "one-year-at-a-time trial basis," serving at St. Mark's from June 1978 until Sept. 7, 1979, when he was reassigned to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in New London. He served there until February 1980.

"And at that stage Bishop Daniel Reilly decided he no longer wanted to have him around and sent him back to Toronto," Sweeney said last month.

Primavera, who know lives in New Britain, is no longer a priest. He could not be reached for comment.


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