Milford Priest Accused of Sexual Relationship

By Helen Bennett Harvey
New Haven Register
September 27, 2010

Doreen Ahern of Glades Street claims in the suit that she had "a long psychiatric history, including emotional problems," when she went to the Rev.

Matthew Kappalumakkel for counseling, then became embroiled in an "intimate" relationship.

Kappalumakkel's attorney, Hugh Keefe of New Haven, said Monday that his client "denies the allegations" and will fight the claims.

Keefe also said that Ahern had previously made similar claims against Kappalumakkel, then withdrew them.

Keefe said, "I understand that she is seeking $300,000 from the church. Today, every disgruntled person looking for easy money takes a shot at Roman Catholic priests, because they have become punching bags."

Ahern's attorney, John Williams of New Haven, said that although $300,000 might have been on the table at some time during previous talks, there is neither a demand nor a settlement offer now active.

"The church did offer her money ... obviously the lawsuit is seeking money," Williams said.

"We are going to leave that to a jury."

Williams said the case, which he said involved a consensual sexual relationship, is one in which "a member of the church was taken advantage of by a priest."

The suit claims that Kappalumakkel violated his "fiduciary duty" to Ahern, which Williams likened to that between a psychologist and a patient, in which the person acting as counselor "has a special duty of care" for the counseled.

"It is a trusting relationship," Williams said.

Kappalumakkel now serves Holy Infant Church in Orange, according to Keefe.

The suit, filed in Superior Court in Milford, also names as a defendant the Archdiocese of Hartford, which oversees churches in West Haven.

The suit claims that the archdiocese failed to supervise Kappalumakkel because it "either knew of or should have known Kappalumakkel had engaged in inappropriate behavior with the plaintiff and other women."

"They could have stopped it, but didn't," Williams said.

The suit claims that Ahern sought "the advice, counsel and friendship," of Kappalumakkel in 1996, and a short time later "became aware that the plaintiff had severe emotional problems."

Because of the nature of her relationship with Kappalumakkel, Ahern lost her "faith community, including, but not limited to her faith in priests," the suit claims.

Though it was initiated in March, the suit was not filed in court until Monday because parties in the matter had tried to reach an agreement out of court, documents show.

The exact nature of talks between the parties is not specified in a document filed with the suit, though papers do note that attempts to reach an agreement were extended four times.

George Kramer, a Cromwell attorney, originally represented Ahern, but Williams recently took over the case. Kramer could not be reached Monday.

Neither a spokesman for the archdiocese nor its attorney, Jack Sitarz, could be reached for comment late Monday.


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