Man Files Suit Alleging Sex Abuse by Priest in Wethersfield

By Josh Kovner
Hartford Courant
May 29, 2009,0,5434013.story

A 47-year-old former Connecticut man has sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, alleging he was sexually abused by the late Monsignor Robert Walter Doyle for five years in the 1970s while he was an altar boy at Sacred Heart Church in Wethersfield.

Diocesan officials, served with the lawsuit Thursday afternoon, had no comment on the specific allegations against Doyle, who died in 1975, but said they have taken substantial steps to protect children since a series of abuse cases surfaced six years ago.

Doyle, the superintendent of schools for the archdiocese from 1951 to 1961, led efforts to establish three regional Catholic high schools in Greater Hartford. He came to Sacred Heart Church in 1968.

The man, who turns 48 in July, filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in Hartford under the pseudonym Donald Roe. Under state law, victims of child sexual abuse have until their 48th birthday to sue their alleged abuser.

The complaint alleges that the man was sexually molested by Doyle from 1971 to 1975, while Doyle was a parish priest.

Doyle repeatedly told the boy that the abuse was "OK with the Lord," the complaint states.

"He was between the ages of 10 and 15. These were his first sexual experiences — and it wasn't something he could tell his parents. Like many victims, he was told that if he said anything, no one would believe him," the man's lawyer, Richard Kenny of Hartford, said in an interview.

Kenny said the abuse ravaged the man's life, leading to problems with alcohol, drugs, sexual identity, employment, and chronic thievery.

"He's had extreme difficulty with anything to do with the Catholic Church, getting married in a church, going to a Catholic college — these events would trigger severe emotional problems," Kenny said.

The man suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and has been suicidal, according to the complaint.

The Rev. John P. Gatzak, spokesman for the Hartford archdiocese, said it is diocesan policy not to comment on specific allegations against priests.

"Any time we hear of such allegations either involving the church or other segments of society, it is a reminder to pray for the victims of abuse and strengthen our determination to do all we can in society on behalf of our children," Gatzak said.

He said the archdiocese has taken "major steps to ensure the safety of our children. We have ... conducted background checks on priests, employees and volunteers who work with young people." A program in diocesan schools and religious education classes teaches children how to recognize "the lures that might be used to trap them," he said.

The program also encourages young people not to keep secrets and teaches them where they can get help and how to keep themselves safe, Gatzak said.

The archdiocese in 2005 settled lawsuits from 43 abuse victims for a total of $22 million.


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