Diocese Settles Abuse Claim for $30,000
By Daniel Tepfer
June 18, 2004
BRIDGEPORT - For nearly 30 years, Matthew Roetter has been haunted by an incident that he says scarred his life.
Roetter, now 48, was molested as a teenager by his parish priest.
"It's like a nightmare that doesn't go away when I wake up, something I just can't put behind me," he said. The memories forced him to move from his childhood home, he said, and across the country to Idaho, where he now lives.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport in March agreed to pay Roetter $30,000 to settle a claim he made because of the abuse.
"They paid for the equivalent of two and a half years of counseling. It's not a great deal of money, but at least they are acknowledging finally that I was telling the truth about what happened to me, " he said.
Diocesan spokesman Joseph McAleer acknowledged for the first time Thursday that a settlement was paid to Roetter.
"We have responded to Matthew Roetter's case thoroughly and responsibly and with great compassion," he said.
This is the third time the diocese has settled an abuse complaint against the Rev. Joseph Moore and the second since the diocese paid a $21 million settlement to 40 abuse victims in October. One other man claimed he was abused by Moore at Assumption parish in the 1970s.
Moore, who now lives in Rutland, Vt., has since been suspended from the priesthood.
Roetter attended Assumption Parish in Westport as a youth. His family was religious, he said, and attended church faithfully. Roetter was a member of the church's youth group supervised by Moore.
When Roetter was 18, he said he and other members of the youth group traveled with Moore on a ski trip and stayed overnight at the Blackberry River Inn in northwestern Connecticut.
That night, Roetter said, by the time he and a male friend got back to the rooms all the beds were taken.
"So the priest said we could either sleep on the floor or share his large bed with him. He was going to sleep in the middle and we would sleep on either side. I felt if I couldn't trust a priest who could I trust?" he related.
"I remember falling asleep and the next thing waking up and the priest's hand was in my pants and he was fondling me," he said. "I punched his hand and ran out of the room."
Roetter said he later met his friend outside the room and the friend told him the priest did the same thing to him. He said his friend had called police because he feared Moore might do the same thing to other boys.
At this point, he said, Moore was running around the inn in his underwear, pounding on the doors of other youngsters.
"We later found him hiding in a closet in his underwear weeping. When he saw us he told us, 'If you tell anyone I will kill you.' "
Roetter said the group held the door of the closet closed until State Police arrived. He said another priest and a Westport police officer also arrived and took Moore back to Westport. The next morning they were boarding the bus to come home when he said they saw Moore. "He had driven back and he stood there by the bus staring at us," Roetter.
He said a week later he got a call from a diocesan official who told him not to talk about what had happened.
"I took it as a follow-up to the death threat and I was petrified and didn't tell anyone," he said.
Roetter said he eventually did tell his mother what happened, and in August 2002 he, his mother and a representative from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests met with Bishop William Lori. He said he told Lori what Moore had done to him and Lori asked that they pray together.
"When Matthew Roetter approached the Diocese of Bridgeport in August 2002 with his attorney and a SNAP representative, the diocese responded swiftly, as it does with any allegation of abuse," said McAleer. "The diocese conducted a thorough investigation, informed DCF [state Department of Children and Families] and, three days later, Bishop Lori met with Mr. Roetter and his mother, and offered an apology."
While Roetter said he was happy with the way Lori handled his complaint, he said he is still concerned about the way abuse complaints are being handled by the diocese. He has requested to meet again with Lori, but has received no response.
"I am very concerned that this not happen to other children," he said.
"We have yet not had the opportunity to respond to Mr. Roetter's recent correspondence, but will do so soon," McAleer said.
Moore in 1997 was removed from the ministry and has no authorization to serve as a priest.
Moore was stationed at St. Theresa's Parish in Trumbull from 1972 to '73, Assumption Church from 1974 to '75, St. Joseph Church in Danbury from 1976 to '81, and St. Mary's Church in Bethel from 1982 to '83. From 1984 to '96, he is listed in church records as being on duty outside the diocese.
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