|Settlement in Priest Abuse Case Revealed
By Dave Altimari
The Hartford Courant
March 29, 2011
A convicted murderer serving a 60-year sentence in Maine for killing his grandfather received a secret settlement from the Hartford Archdiocese after charging that a Bristol priest sexually abused him when he was a teenager, an advocacy group revealed Monday.
Although the undisclosed settlement was paid to Jeffrey Libby in 2009, the leaders of a priest abuse survivors' group held a press conference Monday in front of the archdiocese's Farmington Avenue headquarters to call on Bishop Henry J. Mansell to acknowledge the settlement. They also urged the Catholic Church to disclose what happened to the priest who allegedly abused Libby in the early 1980's.
The priest served as parish priest in Bristol and Plainville. Maria Zone, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Monday that the priest was placed on administrative leave in 2005, which means he cannot function as a priest.
Zone would not comment on why he was placed on leave or his current whereabouts. She said the diocese is still paying him a stipend. Zone said the diocese's policy is not to comment on specific settlements.
"It is important that the public know that the Archdiocese of Hartford is doing everything possible to keep our youth safe,'' Zone said. "Child sexual abuse is a despicable crime, which will not be tolerated."
Zone said that all parish employees and volunteers over the age of 18 who have regular contact with children must complete a curriculum called the, "Safe Environment Program" which includes background checks as well as a training session on sexual abuse awareness.
Survivor's Network of Priest Abuse (SNAP) National President David Clohessy acknowledged that Libby's case is rather unusual because he is a convicted killer, but said he had no doubt that his allegations are true.
"In my 23 years that I have been doing this work this is one of the worst cases. Jeff was abused in the most horrific ways over 200 times,'' Clohessy said. "Why would the diocese pay a substantial settlement to settle a lawsuit that was not even filed yet with a convicted murderer unless they were convinced that he was telling the truth?''
Clohessy, who said the settlement amount is confidential although he categorized it as "far more than $20,000," spoke to Libby a few weeks ago. The group decided to publicize his case because of concerns about the priest's whereabouts.
Although the settlement was made quietly, Libby has been using it in his efforts to get out of prison early. He is serving a 60-year sentence for drowning his grandfather in 1986.
Under Maine law, Libby would not be eligible for clemency until he has served 30 years of his sentence. He has filed a petition asking that his sentence be commuted now based primarily on the abuse, which he didn't tell anybody about at the time of his sentencing.
His petition was denied, according to Richard Olsen, his attorney in Maine.
"They specifically told Jeff that there had never been any other allegations made against this priest and he was the only one, which was one reason he agreed to the settlement,'' Olsen said.
SNAP held press conferences at other sites Monday, including one in Rhode Island where it called on the state's Roman Catholic leader to release the names of all priests who have worked in Rhode Island and have been accused of sex abuse.
SNAP and BishopAccountability.org also urged Bishop Thomas Tobin to seek out victims of John Dority, a priest convicted of child molestation in Rhode Island in 2005. Dority was released from prison in 2007 and now lives in Coventry, according to the Connecticut State Police sex offender registry.
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