Church Settles Abuse Claims in Hartford

By William Yardley
The New York Times [Hartford CT]
November 1, 2005

HARTFORD, Oct. 31 - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford has agreed to pay $22 million to settle sexual abuse claims brought by 43 people against 14 priests, the archdiocese and lawyers for the victims announced on Monday.

Six of the priests are dead and at least one remains the pastor of a church because, the archdiocese said, it could not corroborate the accusations against him.

The group settlement resolves a two-year dispute and is the third such settlement reached with a Connecticut diocese since 2001. The two others involved the Diocese of Bridgeport, which said in 2003 that it had agreed to pay a total of $37.7 million to settle 89 claims involving 22 priests.

Settlement sums in abuse cases have varied nationwide. In Boston in 2003, the archdiocese settled for $85 million, but that was to be divided among more than 500 people. Lawyers for victims in the Hartford case said it was too soon to know how the money would be divided.

"What continues now is to keep the torch burning and not let the world ever forget what a pedophile is," said Kevin Zile, one of the victims involved in the latest settlement.

Mr. Zile, now 52, said he was abused during his teenage years by the Rev. Thomas Glynn while working as an altar boy. At the time, Father Glynn was a pastor of churches in Forestville and New Haven. Father Glynn, among the accused priests in the settlement announced on Monday, died in 1993, according to lawyers for the victims.

"The biggest tragedy for me is there's no mention of our spouses and our children, who will live with this the rest of their lives, too," said Mr. Zile, who is married with two grown daughters. He lives in Massachusetts, where he works as a nurse at a school for special needs children.

The Hartford Archdiocese issued a written statement that said Archbishop Henry J. Mansell considered the settlement "part of a healing process for the persons whose lives have been severely harmed by the evil of sexual abuse and for the church itself."

The abuse occurred primarily in the 1960's and 70's, "with seven cases extending into or occurring in the first half of the 1980's," the statement said.

One priest in the settlement, the Rev. William Przybylo, remains the pastor of SS. Cyril and Methodius Church in Hartford.

A spokesman for the archdiocese, the Rev. John P. Gatzak, said it had investigated claims against Father Przybylo, made by two people, and had "found that there is no corroborating evidence to give weight to these claims and therefore tip the scales toward the claimants."

He said Archbishop Mansell, who took charge of the archdiocese after the initial claims in the settlement were raised, supported the decision to keep Father Przybylo active.

Father Przybylo, a priest for more than 30 years, who has been a principal and vice principal at Catholic schools, issued a written statement saying he is "totally innocent of the misconduct that has been alleged against me."

"I have acquiesced in the settlement of these claims by the archdiocese, rather than insisting on a court trial to vindicate myself," he wrote, "because I accept the fact that having 'my day in court' would be a terrible hardship for all involved, including my parish, my church and the claimants. This seems like the most reasonable and charitable road to follow, although certainly it is a very difficult one."

Jason E. Tremont, a lawyer for 15 of the claimants, including two who made claims against Father Przybylo, said, "I am disturbed that not every priest who is part of this has been permanently removed."

The money in the Hartford settlement will be allocated to victims by William I. Garfinkel, a United States magistrate judge for the District of Connecticut, who also allocated money in the Bridgeport settlements.

"As part of the settlement, they agree in advance to accept whatever figure I allocate to them," said Judge Garfinkel, who interviewed each of the victims. "I appreciate the faith they put in me, but no, I won't talk numbers in advance." He said he had determined an "overall number" by meeting with lawyers for the victims and for the diocese.

Father Gatzak said the Hartford Archdiocese would pay for more than half of the settlement through private insurance, savings and what the archdiocese called a "self-insurance fund," which he said is used "to handle things like this or when people slip and fall on the steps." He said other claims were pending.

Mr. Tremont said the settlements this year and in 2003 are "on the forefront of settlements nationwide" in financial terms.

"We're pleased with the outcome for our clients," he said.

Some lawyers for the victims said the settlement, like those before it, reflects a changing attitude among church leaders, who once bitterly contested abuse claims. But one advocate for abuse victims said the settlements probably reflected only a reluctant pragmatism within the church.

David Clohessy, the national director for SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, noted that more cases had been settled in recent years and for more money than in the past. "Is that because of church reform?" Mr. Clohessy said. "No. It's because of legislative reform, public pressure and parishioner outrage."

Lawyers for the victims identified the priests involved in the settlement as Father Przybylo and Father Glynn, the Rev. Joseph Buckley, the Rev. Stephen Crowley, the Rev. Ivan Ferguson, the Rev. Stephen Foley, the Rev. John Graham, the Rev. Felix Maguire, the Rev. Daniel McSheffery, the Rev. Edward Muha, the Rev. Louis Paturzo, the Rev. Raymond Paul, Msgr. Edward Reardon and the Rev. Kenneth Shiner.

The archdiocese said six of the priests were dead, but did not identify them. It said four are "retired and no longer in active ministry, three are no longer in active ministry and one has been allowed to remain in active ministry."


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