Survivors' Network Wants Accused Priests' Names Revealed

By Jackie Majerus
The Bristol Press
May 26, 2011

HARTFORD — The Archdiocese of Hartford should make public the names of priests or any other employee who is a proven or "credibly accused" child molester, a victims' advocacy group said Wednesday.

Activists from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests stood in front of the Cathedral of St. Joseph asking that the archdiocese disclose the names and other information of current or former church workers, living or dead, as a way to protect children.

"We have no plans to do this," said Maria Zone, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

The Rev. Richard McGann, a former Bristol priest who served at St. Gregory Church, Our Lady of Mercy in Plainville and at St. Paul Catholic High School, was the focal point of SNAP's attention Wednesday.

Zone said McGann has been on administrative leave since 2005. A priest on administrative leave cannot perform any of the duties of a priest, including performing sacraments such as Communion, she said, or wear the trademark collar or clothes of a priest.

Although Zone said that priests on administrative leave are generally paid and continue to receive benefits such as health care, she said there are exceptions and she could not speak to McGann's case specifically.

A priest can be on administrative leave "indefinitely," Zone said.

McGann was put on administrative leave because of claims of sexual abuse made by Jeffrey Libby, she said.

Libby and the archdiocese reached a settlement in September 2009. Libby is in prison in Maine for the 1986 drowning death of his grandfather and was behind bars when the settlement was reached two years ago. He alleged the abuse occurred between 1975 and 1977.

"The settlement was based on these allegations, which have never been proven," said Zone. She said she's never heard of any other complaints against McGann, but added, "I can't say that there never have been."

David Clohessy, director of SNAP, said members of the organization believe McGann had other victims and made an appeal for them to come forward.

"He's walking free," Clohessy said. "We believe that he is dangerous."

McGann is believed to be living in the area, but could not be reached for comment.

Clohessy and others with SNAP and the group Voice of the Faithful said Archbishop Henry Mansell and other church leaders should "come clean" and say where McGann is living and name other priests who have been placed on leave.

The group tried to hand deliver a letter to Mansell on Wednesday but weren't able to speak with him.

"Maybe next time," said Christopher Matt of Plainville, who is a member of SNAP. He said he knew McGann when he was a member of Our Lady of Mercy but wasn't aware at the time of any wrongdoing there.

"I saw the good side of him," Matt said.

Jayne O'Donnell of Voice of the Faithful and a member of St. Timothy Church in West Hartford, said the church pays out hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements and keeps the names of the priests out of the public eye — and off the list of sex offenders.

There hasn't been a public report on the finances of the archdiocese since 1985, said O'Donnell, who said the church has lost credibility among believers.

"Their trust has eroded," O'Donnell said. "They're not looked up to the way they used to be by the faithful."

Clohessy alleged that McGann had been staying with a Bristol day-care operator. He said SNAP received calls from several people in town who said they saw him among the children, but none were with him at the cathedral Wednesday.

"People prefer not to get involved," Clohessy said.

The licensed day-care operator, Debra Zakrzewski, has said McGann does not live with her and that state investigators have checked into SNAP's claims and cleared her.

Attempts to reach Diana Reyes, a state public health investigator, by e-mail and phone Wednesday to confirm the conclusion of the probe were not successful.

Zone said the archdiocese has instituted a background check and sexual awareness training program for all employees.

"We are doing everything we can to keep children safe," Zone said.


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