Settlement Can't Erase the Pain

Hartford Courant [Hartford CT]
November 2, 2005

This week's $22 million settlement involving sexual abuse claims against 14 Catholic priests in the Hartford Archdiocese is a sad reminder of a shocking scandal that refuses to go away.

Priests who were esteemed as trusted guardians of children too often took advantage of that relationship by fondling, raping and otherwise sexually molesting youths too scared to report the criminal abuse, fearing that no one would believe them. Cash settlements in dioceses across the nation indicate that the assaults involved many hundreds of priests and thousands of children.

The Hartford settlement covering complaints by 43 accusers came after two years of mediation in Bridgeport federal court. Six of the accused priests have died, four have retired, three were stripped of their priestly faculties, and one, the Rev. William Przybylo of SS. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church in Hartford, remains in active ministry.

Father Przybylo denies the allegations of two men who say he abused them in the 1970s. He claims he agreed to settle to avoid a trial. The archdiocese contends it could not substantiate the complaints. But that raises the obvious question as to why the priest and his superiors settled if the claims were baseless.

Although details were not made public in each case, enough is known to paint a sickening picture of warped behavior by priests who served in at least two dozen parishes in the diocese. George Tifft says he was 14 when a priest plied him with alcohol, molested him and paid him to keep quiet. Memories of the abuse led Mr. Tifft to three suicide attempts, drug and alcohol abuse and a failed marriage.

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell expressed "deep sorrow" for the abuse, asked for the victims' forgiveness and pledged to take steps - including mandatory training sessions for clergy - to ensure that it never happens again. This latest church settlement follows one in the Bridgeport Diocese two years ago, when 40 victims received $21 million.

More lawsuits are pending in Connecticut and elsewhere.

Despite settlements that likely will exceed $1 billion nationwide, the Catholic Church has failed to acknowledge the depth of the scandal and the pain inflicted on countless boys and young men and a few young women. In fact, the Vatican earlier this year quietly dropped its investigation of a high church official accused by eight former seminarians of sexual abuse.

It will take more than monetary settlements to restore the shattered lives of so many people who were victimized when they were young by predators wearing clerical garb.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.