Family Calls for Bishops to Resign over Abuse Case
By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette [Massachusetts]
April 20, 2002
- The brother of a man who killed himself after being abused by the Rev. Bernard W. Bissonnette yesterday called for the resignations of Bishop Daniel P. Reilly and Bishop Daniel Hart over their lack of leadership and failure to unfrock the priest.
Gene Michael Deary, a businessman with offices in Vernon and Northboro, Mass., said Bishop Reilly told him in the 1990s that Rev. Bissonnette had been removed from the priesthood. He found out from Bishop Hart that Rev. Bissonnette is still a priest, is being paid by the Norwich Diocese and was never laicized.
Laicization is a Latin-based term for "defrocking" or removing a man from the priesthood.
Mr. Deary is asking people to contact the chanceries in Worcester and Norwich to call for the resignations of the bishops and to contact the attorneys general in both states to question why they are being allowed to "remain in positions where they can harbor criminals the likes of Bissonnette."
Bishop Hart will not comment on the call for his resignation or the most recent meeting with Mr. Deary, according to Jacqueline Keller, spokeswoman for the Norwich Diocese.
Bishop Reilly was away, according to Raymond L. Delisle, Worcester diocesan spokesman, and he did not know whether the bishop had seen Mr. Deary's statement. He said the issue involving the Deary family has received much media coverage going back to the 1980s, but it is not an issue of this diocese.
"With all the awareness of the Deary case, there had been widespread public recognition for Bishop Reilly's leadership in developing and implementing diocesan policies in Norwich, which included collaboration with child welfare agencies, state's attorneys and victims services groups," Mr. Delisle said.
The call for the resignations came after a meeting held with Bishop Hart Monday night at the chancery in Norwich, said Mr. Deary, a Roman Catholic whose family belongs to parishes in the Norwich Diocese. He said this is not an attack on the Catholic faith, but an attempt to bring new leadership into the church and to support the "good priests" and other church workers.
"Both of these men are part of the problem and incapable of being part of the solution," he said.
The call for the bishops to step down comes at a time when polls show that a majority of Catholics in the Boston Archdiocese want Cardinal Bernard F. Law to resign over his mishandling of the priest abuse scandal in the archdiocese. The Vatican has refused to allow Cardinal Law to resign, a move that some theologians say is being made out of fear that other members of the hierarchy would be vulnerable.
The call also arrives at a time when a group of lay Catholics in the Worcester Diocese is seeking a synod of the diocese to discuss greater lay participation in governance of the church.
Bishop Reilly, who heads the Worcester Diocese, was bishop of Norwich when Thomas Deary went to the diocese seeking help with emotional difficulties that were said to have resulted from abuse. Bishop Reilly was also bishop when Mr. Deary committed suicide.
The Deary family discovered after their brother's death that Rev. Bissonnette had allegedly abused a number of children in the Norwich Diocese and had been transferred 17 times. Thomas Deary was allegedly molested by Rev. Bissonnette in the 1960s in Putnam.
Bishop Hart has failed to deliver on the promises he made to the Deary family and other victims of Rev. Bissonnette, according to Mr. Deary, who said Bishop Hart in a previous meeting agreed to do three things: find Rev. Bissonnette, ask the priest for permission to release his personnel file and begin the laicization process.
Mr. Deary said neither he nor his family has any intention of suing the diocese, but they want to make sure that Rev. Bissonnette does not have access to children and that all children within the church are safe.
Mr. Deary said he was told by Bishop Hart Monday that the bishop had "decided not to ask Father Bissonnette" for permission to release his file. He told Mr. Deary that he thought it unlikely the priest would agree, Mr. Deary said. Pressed by Mr. Deary, Bishop Hart said that someone from the diocese had already contacted Rev. Bissonnette about the file. Mr. Deary said under Connecticut state law, the personnel file of any employee, including a priest, can be released only with the employee's permission.
Mr. Deary said the bishop did agree to get a canon lawyer to begin the laicization process, which angered Mr. Deary because he had been previously told by Bishop Reilly that Rev. Bissonnette had been removed from the priesthood. Mr. Deary said he asked the bishop to resign at this meeting and the bishop indicated that he had no intention of stepping down.
The call for the bishops to step down came in a statement, an open "letter to the editor" and during a morning talk show on radio station WINY, 1350 AM, of Putnam.
"I appeared on the radio talk show hosted by Mark Allard, and I called for their resignations and gave the telephone numbers where people can call to ask for them to resign. I have to say the show was very well-received," Mr. Deary said.
Mr. Deary tracked Rev. Bissonnette to the town of Belen, N.M., in the 1990s after Bishop Reilly said he did not know where he was, and Mr. Deary and other family members flew there and met with Rev. Bissonnette. No listing for the priest was available through directory assistance.
"As a family, we asked Bishop Reilly in 1982, again in 1992, and now we have asked Bishop Hart in 2002 to pursue the whereabouts of Father Bernard Bissonnette because we are concerned for the family and their children that Father Bissonnette is living amongst in New Mexico."
When Mr. Deary visited the priest in New Mexico, he said the priest was living with a family that had a number of children in the house.
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