By Joe Wojtas
January 18, 2020
In August of 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report that found 301 priests had abused more than 1,000 children in the state’s Catholic dioceses. That news prompted six southeastern Connecticut men, now in their 50s, 60s and 70s, to tell The Day how they too had been sexually assaulted by priests and a nun assigned to the Diocese of Norwich when they were children.
One, Deacon Mark King, accused Gregory Mullaney, the current pastor at St. Agnes Church in Niantic, of repeatedly propositioning him and trying to sexually assault him while on a trip to Rome in 2006.
The Day also revealed how more than two dozen young men had sued the diocese alleging they were sexually assaulted as teens while attending a school for troubled boys in Deep River that was headed by former Bishop of Norwich Daniel Reilly. One alleged victim, Tim McGuire of New London, began picketing local churches and others calling for a victim compensation fund.
The Day published their stories and reported that the attorney general and chief state’s attorney had no plans to investigate the issue. The newspaper also questioned the diocese why it was not releasing lists of accused priests as the Hartford diocese and others across the country had done.
This past February, the diocese released a list of 43 priests, which it then revised to 45, who it said had “allegations of substance” made against them since 1953. The diocese said it had paid out $7.7 million in settlements to victims. But the list did not say what parishes the priests served at, what they were accused of doing or if the diocese ever reported them to police or state Department of Children and Families as required by law. The Day then published stories revealing more detaials about the accused priests.
The Day also reported that six priests accused of sexual assault were not on the list and that according to attorneys of some victims that the settlements they received totaled $9.5 million.
Publicity about such cases and release of lists of accused priests prompted the General Assembly this past spring to consider a bill that would have eliminated the statute of limitations for 27 months so anyone who was sexually assaulted as a minor could file a lawsuit regardless of their current age. Such a change, which other states such as New York have recently implemented, would likely create an even greater financial problem for the diocese.
The effort failed but the age to file a suit was increased from 48 to 51 and a task force was created to study the issue and issue a report with recommendations to the General Assembly no later than Jan. 15, 2020. Victims and their supporters have vowed to continue their effort to repeal the statute of limitations.