A former altar boy at St. George's Church in Guilford has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Hartford, alleging he was molested by former parish priest Daniel McSheffery starting when he was 9.
The lawsuit claims that McSheffery took the boy under his wing, offering him counseling and even helping with his schoolwork to gain his trust. It also alleges the abuse started in the spring of 1977 and continued for five years until the boy was 14.
The lawsuit alleges that during that time, McSheffery, who died in 2014, abused the boy more than 250 times. The accuser is named in the lawsuit but The Courant is not publishing his name because he is a possible sexual assault victim.
The lawsuit, filed this week, names only the the Archdiocese of Hartford as a defendant. The claim is that church officials, including then-Archbishop John F. Whealon, knew that McSheffery was a danger to minors and did nothing about it.
The lawsuit charges that the church had two secret files containing allegations of sexual abuse against McSheffery, known as "379 file" and "489 file," that were accessible only to Whealon and a few others.
Archdiocese spokesman Maria Zona said Wednesday the church had no comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation.
New Haven attorney Thomas McNamara, who is representing the accuser, said the man didn't want to use a pseudonym because "he has been in the shadows long enough."
"McSheffery was one of Connecticut's most cunning and deceitful child sex abusers ever to wear a Roman collar," McNamara said. "Parishioners hung on his every word and he used his charisma to inflict lifelong harm on the most defenseless in the St. George's community."
McSheffery, who died in 2014 while living in Florida, was the parish priest at St. George's from 1974 to 1986. Previously he had been at St. Augustine's Church in Hartford where he was later accused of several sexual assaults of students at the school there.
The archdiocese settled eight lawsuits against McSheffery as part of a $22 million settlement in 2005 that involved 43 plaintiffs and three additional priests. The plaintiffs in those cases charged that McSheffery sexually abused them while they were attending the St. Augustine School in Hartford during the late 1960s and early 1970s — before he was assigned to St. George's.
When allegations against McSheffery surfaced in 2002, then-Archbishop Daniel Cronin placed him on administrative leave from his position as pastor at St. Augustine's Church in North Branford, where he had been for 16 years.
McSheffery was never laicized from the church, although he was forbidden from conducting Mass. It is unclear whether the church paid him the stipend that it pays retired priests.
As part of the 2005 settlement, the church had to sell a four-room waterfront cottage McSheffery owned in Old Saybrook that he dubbed "Heaven."
The church bought the cottage for $525,000 from McSheffery and sold it for more than $550,000.
The archdiocese forced McSheffery to give up the cottage because three victims had filed liens against the property and those parties would not agree to the settlement unless the property was taken away from the priest.
"What's important to note is that no money went to the priest," said attorney Jack Sitarz, who represented the archdiocese in the negotiations, at the time of the sale. "This was an unusual case because there aren't many priests who own that kind of an asset."
The money went to pay taxes and outstanding liens on the property, including one placed on it by McSheffery's attorney, Hugh Keefe, Sitarz said.