Catholic National Review Board Asked to Investigate Bishop Lori

By Dave Altimari
The Hartford Courant
December 15, 2009,0,1544416.story

A support group for survivors of priest abuse is asking a national Catholic review board of lay people to investigate Bishop William F. Lori and his handling of sexual abuse claims against two active priests, including the former second-highest ranked official in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.

"We are writing you today to express our concern that two Bridgeport priests Monsignor William Genuario and Monsignor Frank Wissel - are still active in the ministry, after two allegations against each have been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Bridgeport," said the letter from Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Last week The Courant reported that in 2004 the Bridgeport Diocese paid two men $40,000 not to file lawsuits against the diocese after they came forward with claims that both Genuario and Wissel had abused them when they were teenagers. The two men signed a written contract agreeing not to sue the diocese in exchange for the payments.

Genuario is a member of the Diocesan Tribunal which handles such things as annulments, but he was the Vicar General, second in command to then-Bishop Walter Curtis, when the abuse allegedly took place. Wissel, who told The Courant the allegations against him were "ridiculous" is currently the Pastor at St. Mary's Parish in Greenwich.

The Bridgeport diocese would not answer specific questions concerning complaints against Genuario or Wissel.

Instead, diocesan spokesman Joseph McAleer issued a statement last week saying: "Monsignor Genuario is a retired priest who assists part-time at the Marriage Tribunal. He is a priest in good standing."

"Per its policies," the statement said, "the Diocese removes from ministry any member of the clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. The Diocese takes seriously any allegation of sexual abuse, and immediately notifies law enforcement of any accusation received. Every allegation is carefully examined by a competent lay review board. If an allegation is deemed credible, the Diocese removes the priest from ministry."

SNAP Executive Director David Clohessy said it is imperative that an independent board review Lori's actions in these cases and to determine if these two priests should still be active.

The letter asks the National Review Board to:

Immediately suspend Genuario and Wissel.

Personally visit every parish where Genuario and Wissel worked and remind parishioners that they have a moral and civil responsibility to report any knowledge of these horrific crimes to the police.

Encourage the bishop to reach out to parishioners, both past and present, through the diocesan website and newspaper and church bulletins.

"Please step in and appoint an independent team to not only look into the alleged crimes themselves but into how and why the accusations were kept secret and why these priests are being allowed to continue in ministry," the letter said.

The 13-member National Review Board, consists of lay people, and was established in 2002 by the National Conference of Bishops in response to the growing clergy sexual abuse scandal. It's role is to collaborate with the Bishop's organization in preventing the sexual abuse of minors in the United States by persons in the service of the church.


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