Accused Priest on Leave

By Josh Kovner
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
May 26, 2002

A North Branford Roman Catholic pastor is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct and has been placed on administrative leave.

In a brief statement released late Saturday afternoon, the Archdiocese of Hartford said the complaint against the Rev. Daniel F. McSheffery, 72, pastor of St. Augustine Parish, "refers to alleged activity of many years ago. The allegation is presently under investigation."

The statement said the matter has "been turned over to the proper civil authorities." A supervisor at North Branford police headquarters said Saturday evening that he didn't know if the department's administrators were aware of the allegations. New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington was not immediately available for comment Saturday night.

It was not clear when the complaint against McSheffery was made. In April, the archdiocese acknowledged that it had received seven complaints against its priests since Jan. 1.

Soon after that acknowledgement, Kristine D. Ragaglia, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, wrote a letter to Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin, requesting information on the seven complaints.

Ragaglia said she was concerned that the archdiocese had not notified her agency about any of the complaints received since January.

In a meeting 10 days ago with Ragaglia and Chief State's Attorney John M. Bailey, Cronin agreed to forward the seven recent complaints to state authorities.

John L. Hart, a deacon at St. Augustine, said it was his understanding that McSheffery was one of the priests named in the seven recent complaints.

"The parish was told that Father McSheffery was one of the names [Cronin] turned over," said Hart.

"We don't have any idea if the allegation is true or not," Hart continued. "Whatever happened, it was long before he came to St. Augustine 11 or 12 years ago, and before he was pastor at St. George's in Guilford. Some of us are shocked at the allegation; some are heartbroken. He is the holiest, most dedicated priest I've ever met."

Rev. John P. Gatzak, spokesman for the archdiocese, said Saturday he presumed McSheffery was one of the priests named in the seven complaints, but wasn't certain.

The statement Saturday said parishioners of St. Augustine were told of the allegations by the Rev. Gerard Schmitz, the vicar for priests.

"Father Schmitz asked for the understanding, patience, and prayerful support of Father McSheffery and fellow parishioners at this time," the statement said.

The parish, at 30 Caputo Road, is known as the Church on the Hill.


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