Lawsuit: Conn. Priest Bribed Sexual Abuse Victim

By John Christoffersen
Associated Press
July 7, 2010

A Connecticut man filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing a Roman Catholic pastor of sexually abusing him when he was a boy and trying to buy his silence with bribes including appliances and a car and threats to report his mother to welfare authorities.

Thirty-four-year-old William Dotson made the allegations against the Rev. Stephen Bzdyra (BIZ'-der-ah), pastor of St. Augustine Church in Seymour, in a lawsuit in New Haven Superior Court.

Bzdyra referred comment to the Archdiocese of Hartford. The Rev. John Gatzak, director of communications for the archdiocese, said he had no information about the lawsuit so he could not comment.

The Associated Press generally does not name victims of sexual assault, but Dotson's attorney, Joel Faxon, said Dotson wanted to come forward publicly with the allegations. A message was left with Faxon for Dotson.

Faxon said the case was unusual because it involves an active priest. Most recent cases involve allegations against priests already removed, he said.

The lawsuit alleges Bzdyra whipped and raped Dotson, an altar boy, after catechism class when he was 10 and molested him repeatedly in the rectory and church where Bzdyra served at the time. It accuses the priest of paying hush money, such as buying Dotson a washer and dryer and a car, and threatening to report Dotson's mother to the welfare department for having too many jobs if he revealed the abuse, saying he would be taken away from his family.

"Knowing that Mrs. Dotson was a hard-working, single mother, Bzdyra first infiltrated the family as a friend and father figure and then used their trust and faith against them to fulfill his own sick and twisted sexual desires," Faxon said in a statement.

Dotson turned to drugs and tried to kill himself as a result of the abuse, Faxon said. He has gone through therapy and is off drugs, his attorney said.

Dotson finally decided to come forward after the priest tried to befriend his son on Facebook, Faxon said.

The lawsuit, which seeks damages of more than $15,000, names Bzdyra and the archdiocese. It says church officials failed to prevent the abuse.

Faxon said Dotson will likely file a criminal complaint against Bzdyra, but he's researching whether a statue of limitations has expired.

Mario Dirienzo, a deacon at the church, said he did not believe the allegations against Bzdyra.

"Father is above board," Dirienzo said. "He has an excellent reputation."

Faxon said Bzdyra is also listed on a Boy Scout web page as the Catholic Committee chaplain. Anthony Vogl, marketing director of the Connecticut Yankee Council, the local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, said the website is outdated and a different priest is the chaplain. He said the archdiocese appoints the position and he doesn't believe the chaplain would have contact with scouts.

Bzdyra is also the subject of a lawsuit by a principal who says he fired her in 2004 after she refused to retaliate against a female student who had complained that the priest had made sexual remarks during a class. Henry Murray, attorney for the principal, Patricia Dayner, said Bzdyra wanted the principal to call the Connecticut Department of Children and Families concerning one of the students who complained about him.

Dayner's lawsuit is pending before the Connecticut Supreme Court after church officials lost an effort to have it dismissed.


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