Priest Accused of Abuse in Putnam

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
May 21, 2002

PUTNAM - Charles Vigeant, now a businessman in Houston, has begun a one-man crusade against a priest he says molested him when he was a boy at St. Mary's Church.

Mr. Vigeant said he was molested by the Rev. Donald Petraitis of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, the order that ran Marianapolis Academy. The alleged molestation occurred while Rev. Petraitis was "filling in" at St. Mary's, Mr. Vigeant said in an interview.

Mr. Vigeant first complained both to the Marians and the Norwich Diocese last month.

Mark Brouillard, a lawyer with Boland, St. Onge & Brouillard of Woodstock who is representing the order, said Rev. Petraitis "had made it clear he denies all the allegations that (Mr. Vigeant) has made." Mr. Brouillard said he had just received word of the allegation, was investigating and could say no more at this time.

Mr. Vigeant said he was also molested on another occasion by the late Rev. Donat Jette, who was a parish priest assigned to St. Mary's. "Father Jette is deceased. I am interested in Father Petraitis because of what he did to me," he said.

He added that Rev. Jette served at the parish at the same time as the Rev. Bernard Bissonette, who is the subject of further inquiries by the family of the late Thomas Deary.

Gene Michael Deary, Thomas Deary's brother, and other family members have called for the resignation of Bishop Daniel Hart and his predecessor, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, for the way they handled complaints about Rev. Bissonette, who is now believed to be in New Mexico. Bishop Reilly is now head of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

Thomas Deary committed suicide in the early 1990s after many years of mental illness, which the family says it traces to the abuse by Rev. Bissonette.

Mr. Vigeant says he was angered this past week by statements by an official of Gregorian University in Rome approved by the Vatican and published in the Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica that church officials were under no legal or moral obligation to tell parishioners about a priest accused of sexual misconduct if church officials thought he would not do it again.

Mr. Vigeant said he also believes there may be other victims of Revs. Petraitis and Jette who have not come forward.

"I have no shame now," he said. "I will tell what happened."

Mr. Vigeant, now 47, was age 8 or 9 when Rev. Petraitis pulled him out of a Saturday religious education class and "forced oral sex" in an empty classroom of the church, he said.

The boy went to confession, which is a sacrament of the Catholic Church, and Rev. Jette, who was hearing his confession brought him into the confessional and sexually molested him, he said.

His claims caused a brief firestorm late last week in the Norwich Diocese when it was learned that Bishop Hart had failed to report the allegation brought to his attention last month by Mr. Vigeant. Under Connecticut state law, all allegations of abuse must be reported regardless of when they happened. The abuse is said to have occurred in the 1960s.

Bishop Hart apologized last week for failing to notify the Department of Children and Families that Mr. Vigeant had made the allegation against Rev. Petraitis. He then complied with the law, turning over several names to the state.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.