Lawsuit Accuses Priest

By Dave Altimari
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
August 17, 2002

A former state police chaplain and current priest in the Hartford Archdiocese, accused of molesting a teenage boy more than 20 years ago, allegedly enticed his victim by taking him to accident scenes and promising to help him become a state trooper, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.

The suit against the Rev. Stephen C. Foley was filed in Hartford Superior Court by an unnamed man who claims he was sexually molested starting in 1977, when he was a 15-year-old attending St. Robert Bellarmine Roman Catholic Church in Windsor Locks.

"Over a period of a year there were multiple instances of sexual contact in various places instigated by Father Foley," said attorney Robert Reardon of New London, who is representing the plaintiff, who is now 40.

Reardon said that the man wants to be known as John Doe because he has a family and a good job in the Hartford area, and fears being stigmatized by publicity from his allegations. His lawsuit was filed under the newly revised state statute that extended the deadline for minor victims of sexual abuse to press civil suits from age 35 to 48.

Besides being the pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine, Foley also has served as director of a local Catholic youth basketball league and as chaplain for fire departments in several towns, including Hartford. Although he has continued to function as a chaplain in recent years, Foley has not been permitted to work "in public ministry" since 1993, according to the archdiocese.

"The Archdiocese of Hartford is deeply troubled by the new allegation set forth in a lawsuit against Father Stephen Foley," said the Rev. John P. Gatzak, a spokesman. "We are also very concerned about the welfare of the individual who is alleged to have been involved. The archdiocese does not and has never condoned the type of conduct described in the lawsuit."

Gatzak would not comment on why Foley was placed on "administrative leave" in August 1993 when he was pastor at St. Dunstan's Church in Glastonbury. Foley also ceased being a state police chaplain that same year.

Foley, who lives at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, could not be reached for comment.

Reardon said Foley used the accoutrements of his role as state police chaplain to lure the teenager into a relationship. A former state trooper, who did not want to be identified, recalled that Foley drove a Crown Victoria -- the same model car used by the police -- outfitted with antennas and strobe lights.

"The chaplains are utilized to assist with such things as notifying people about a death," said Sgt. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman. "They have no law enforcement powers or privileges at any police scene."

Vance said that chaplains are appointed by the commissioner of public safety. There are currently 15 of them throughout the state.

Foley kept alcohol in his car and frequently gave the teenager drinks while they were driving around, said Reardon, adding that Foley took John Doe and other boys on unsupervised trips to Cape Cod and New Hampshire.

The lawsuit alleges that on numerous occasions, after plying the boy with alcohol, Foley started fondling the boy's penis, masturbated in his presence and then sexually assaulted him. Some of the assaults occurred on church property, the lawsuit says.

The assaults allegedly continued for about a year until the boy finally ran out of the rectory one night, went home and told his parents what was happening. Foley followed John Doe home, but when he knocked on the door, the boy's father answered and refused to allow the priest to see him, Reardon said. The father told Foley to get some help.

Reardon said that John Doe never told anyone else about the alleged assaults. Earlier this year, as the priest sex-abuse scandal was breaking, he approached the Windsor Locks Police Department about possibly filing criminal charges. When he was told that the statute of limitations for a criminal arrest had expired, he decided to seek a civil remedy.

Because John Doe is now 40, he would have been unable to file a lawsuit under the old state statute that allowed victims to file lawsuits until the age of 35. But this spring, in response to the burgeoning scandal, the state legislature expanded the age when someone can sue to 48.

"He felt it was important to let the public know that a former state police chaplain was engaged in this kind of conduct for many years," Reardon said.


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