Diocese Sued in Priest Abuse Case

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post
December 16, 2008

BRIDGEPORT — Lawrence Brett has never spent a day behind bars, although his alleged abuse of about a dozen children across the nation has cost the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars.

Church officials, however, continue to say they don't know where Brett, a priest in the diocese since the early 1960s, is now.

But two diocesan priests who admitted to meeting Brett on a Caribbean island were disciplined in 2003 by the diocese. He is even being sought by the FBI.

Court documents show that in 1990, New York Cardinal Edward Egan, then bishop of the Bridgeport diocese, apparently knew where Brett was and invited him to return to Bridgeport.

The diocese later suspended Brett, preventing him from acting as a priest. While diocese officials said they believe Brett was later laisized, or defrocked, by the Vatican, there are no records to show when this may have happened.

In the latest development in the Brett saga, a Florida man on Tuesday filed suit in Superior Court here against the Bridgeport diocese, claiming he was sexually abused by Brett in Baltimore, New Jersey and Washington in 1977.

This would be at least the fourth lawsuit filed against the diocese in connection with allegations against Brett.

Stanley Boston was 13 years old in 1977 when he claims he was abused by Brett, according to his lawyer, Thomas McNamara, of New Haven.

McNamara said at the time Brett was still a Bridgeport diocesan priest, but living and working in Baltimore with the diocese's permission. He said his client was living in the same Baltimore neighborhood as Brett, when Brett picked him up in his car one day. He said Brett gave his client alcohol and then began abusing him.

"The diocese let the sexual abuser free to abuse other boys when this could have been prevented," McNamara said. "They closed the door on Brett and in doing so opened the case to allow this predator to ruin the lives of other young boys. It's so unconscionable and the results are so terribly sad."

James Stapleton, a Trumbull lawyer who represents the diocese, countered that the alleged assaults on Boston had nothing to do with either the church or the diocese.

"We don't know where Father Brett is. He left the diocese and has been wandering around the country," he said.

Stapleton said that in the past church officials offered Boston counseling, but he refused. "We don't feel we are responsible for Brett's activities outside the church," he added.

Two other lawsuits alleging abuse by Brett were settled by the diocese and a third resulted in a million-dollar verdict against the diocese that was later settled pending appeals.

Court documents show the diocese knew there were allegations of sexual abuse against Brett since the early 1960s, but did not report it.

The Connecticut Post obtained a memo from the diocese regarding a meeting that took place among diocese officials on Dec. 2, 1964, regarding an alleged assault by Brett on a 19-year-old male Sacred Heart University student.

The memo states the teen had gone to Brett to discuss a sexual problem and Brett ended up performing oral sex on him. The memo goes on to state that Brett was being sent away. "A recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned should anyone ask" was the reason Brett wasn't around.

Brett was sent to a monastery in New Mexico and then to a sanitarium in that state for short periods. With Bridgeport diocese permission and financial support, he worked at other dioceses in New Mexico, California and a Catholic high school in Baltimore.

Court documents state that Brett was later accused of sexually molesting teenagers in New Mexico, California and Baltimore.


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