Priest Quits after Abuse Claim

By David Owens
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
January 19, 2004

A priest who led St. Michael's Church in New Haven through a renovation and worked to increase the laity's voice in church business has resigned after allegations surfaced that he sexually abused a minor 20 years ago.

The Rev. Andrew Brizzolara, who had been pastor at St. Michael's since Aug. 1, 1999, resigned on Jan. 9. That was the same day that Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell learned of the allegations, which are from a period when Brizzolara served in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Some parishioners at St. Michael's learned of their priest's removal during Mass Saturday evening.

Bishop Peter A. Rosazza, auxiliary bishop of Hartford, delivered a homily in which he discussed the charges against Brizzolara and the priest's departure.

"With Christ in our minds and imaginations, I bring you very sad news," Rosazza told the congregation, according to a diocesan spokesman. The archdiocese "recently received notice of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Father Andrew Brizzolara that allegedly occurred in the Archdiocese of Boston back in 1982 or 1983."

Rosazza repeated his message during the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Masses Sunday.

Brizzolara does not stand accused of any improper activity during his 4 1/2 years at St. Michael's, but he has had his ministerial authority revoked, said the Rev. John P. Gatzak, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford.

The allegations against Brizzolara remain under investigation, Rosazza told parishioners Saturday and Sunday. The results of that investigation will determine whether Brizzolara returns to St. Michael's. Officials with the Archdiocese of Boston are conducting the investigation along with representatives from Brizzolara's order, the Missionaries of St. Charles — Scalabrinians.

"Please know that I share your pain, having known and appreciated Father Brizzolara as a priest, leader and friend," Rosazza told the congregation.

"He has always shown me the utmost respect in the Italian tradition, respect permeated with joy and warmth. As you know, Father Andrew has done fine priestly work in your parish, such as the renovation of your lovely church and much more. For his joyful spirit, his fine homilies, his attention to people and your needs, all of us are grateful."

Brizzolara has left New Haven and is staying with other members of his order at an undisclosed location, Rosazza said.

Many who attended the Sunday morning Masses had heard of Brizzolara's departure from news reports.

"Everybody I spoke to was incredulous," said Gatzak, who assisted Rosazza at the 8 a.m. Mass. "There was pain and frustration but a great deal of love shown for Father Brizzolara."

Gatzak said he did not have detailed information about where Brizzolara served between his time in Boston and New Haven, although Gatzak said Brizzolara worked in New York City after leaving Boston.

Officials with the Archdiocese of Boston could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Although St. Michael's is part of the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Scalabrinians assign priests to it. The Scalabrinians, an order founded in Italy in 1887, minister to immigrants and refugees. St. Michael's, founded in 1889, was the first Italian parish in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Gatzak said.

Gatzak said church officials followed the diocesan policy by notifying Brizzolara's superiors at his order, Brizzolara himself and proper civil authorities.

Although Brizzolara's resignation was effective Jan. 9, he was not missed at church last weekend because he had scheduled a vacation at that time, Gatzak said.

An Associated Press report is included.


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