Diocese to Be Open about Abuse

By Greg Smith
Norwich Bulletin
February 13, 2007

Norwich — Diocese of Norwich Bishop Michael Cote notified his parishioners this weekend the church is using a wealth of resources to prevent sexual abuse in the church and plans to "be open and forthcoming regarding allegations."

His letter, dated Feb. 11, acknowledged a recent court settlement in which the Diocese of Norwich paid $2 million to settle allegations of abuse by Bruno Primavera, a visiting priest in the 1970s who has been at the center of lawsuits totaling $3 million.

"While allegations and settlements receive a lot of publicity, something you will seldom find mentioned publicly is the amount of time, energy and resources the diocese has expended in recent years to help ensure safe environments for children, teenagers and adults in Eastern Connecticut," Cote wrote.

A program of child advocates has been created and established in almost every parish and school in the diocese, Cote said. Since January 2004, the diocesan screening policy was implemented and 7,000 employees and volunteers were given background checks.

The Office for Safe Environments has instituted a "Pastoral Code of Conduct" as a guideline for appropriate behavior.

"The pastors, child advocates, parents, parishioners, principals, administrators and members of the Office for Safe Environments of our diocese have my deepest gratitude for their very hard work over the past three years," Cote said.

Cote, in his letter, explained the church's portion of the settlements involving Primavera totaled $1.06 million and was paid for from an insurance reserve account. Under no circumstances are any of the funds taken from special appeals, such as Catholic Charities, he said.

The letter was given to all churches in the Diocese of Norwich, according to Diocese spokesman Owen McGovern.

McGovern said that while the letter was meant to be read at Mass, individual pastors may have chosen their own way to distribute the information.

Gene Michael Deary of Brooklyn said Cote is the first Norwich bishop in decades "to acknowledge this was a problem.

"In general, Cote has done a significantly better job and has a pretty proactive approach," Deary said.

Last year, a decades-long struggle for accountability for abuse in the Diocese of Norwich and the Catholic Church reached a conclusion for Deary when Cote notified him the priest who Deary said raped and molested his brother, Thomas Deary, in the 1960s was removed from the priesthood. Thomas Deary took his own life in 1991.

Cote notified Deary in January Pope Benedict XVI had dismissed the Rev. Bernard Bissonnette from the priesthood.

Cote called priests alleged to have committed sexual abuse "criminals" and the Catholic church their "co-conspirators" by association and lack of action.

He said the Diocese needs to be more aggressive to root out problems.

Reach Greg Smith at 425-4219 or


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