2 More Lawsuits Claim Sexual Abuse by Now-Dead Priest

By Abbe Smith
New Haven Register
November 14, 2007

NEW HAVEN — Two brothers have filed lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford alleging sex abuse by longtime priest the Rev. Ivan Ferguson.

The new lawsuits come months after a third brother filed a lawsuit against the diocese in August.

All three lawsuits, filed in Superior Court in New Haven, claim Ferguson, now deceased, sexually abused the teenage brothers from New Milford for a period in the late 1970s. According to court documents, the boys' mother worked at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in the Tariffville section of Simsbury in 1977 and 1978, when the abuse was supposed to have taken place.

In a statement issued through the alleged victims' attorney, Thomas M. McNamara of New Haven, the boys' mother said the situation has profoundly changed her family.

"Short of losing a child, I can't think of anything more devastating than learning that your child has been harmed for life," she said.

The New Haven Register does not identify victims in most sexual abuse cases. The three men now live in Florida, as does their mother.

The lawsuits allege Ferguson befriended the boys, then ranging in age from 12 to 16 years old, and took them individually to his second-floor bedroom in the rectory where he repeatedly abused them.

One of the brothers claims Ferguson lured him to his bedroom by promising to let the boy use his telescope and talk about astronomy. Ferguson allegedly threatened to fire the boy's mother if he told.

The youngest brother's suit claims Ferguson brought him to a beach, then to a house where he continued to abuse the 12-year-old boy.

The lawsuits claim the archdiocese knew or should have known Ferguson "posed a danger to minors" at the time and that it was negligent and reckless in failing to prevent the abuse. McNamara said the archdiocese sent Ferguson away for treatment after receiving complaints about him, and yet he still ended up serving at a Derby church.

In 2005, the Hartford Archdiocese reached a $22 million settlement with 43 alleged clergy sex abuse victims. That settlement stemmed from abuse claims against 14 priests, including Ferguson.

McNamara declined to give an amount being sought in the new cases, but said it was "a lot."

"What has been taken from these boys you can't put a dollar amount on, which means it is worth a lot," he said Tuesday.

The Rev. John Gatzak, director of communication for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said he could not comment specifically on the lawsuits, but said such cases are a reminder that people should pray for abuse victims.

"Whenever we hear about cases like this it is deeply troubling," he said.

Gatzak said the Catholic church has taken steps to make sure history is never repeated and children today are kept safe and secure.

Abbe Smith can be reached at or 789-5615.


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