Diocese to Pay $21 Million for Sex Abuse

Associated Press
October 17, 2003

Bridgeport— Bridgeport Bishop William Lori apologized Thursday to sexual abuse victims and asked for forgiveness as he announced a $21 million settlement with 40 people who said they were molested by priests.

Lori said the settlement was an effort by the Roman Catholic diocese to "do what is right, just and compassionate."

"Let me express my personal remorse and the remorse of the entire diocese for the harm that was caused in the lives of so many individuals," he said. "With all my heart I apologize and I ask for forgiveness."

The settlement involves 42 claims by 40 people who allege that 16 diocese priests abused them when they were children.

"This settlement represents vindication for all the survivors of clergy sex abuse and is an acknowledgment of their very personal ordeals," said Cindy Robinson, an attorney representing the victims.

The victims, many of whom came from devout families, suffered problems including depression, difficulties with relationships and even attempted suicides after their abuse, said Jason Tremont, another attorney for the victims.

The payout is believed to be the third-biggest settlement by a U.S. diocese since the scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church broke in Boston in 2002.

It will be funded through insurance and the sale of undeveloped surplus property, Lori said.

The new settlement is the second in two years for the diocese. The diocese reached a settlement in 2001 involving five priests and 26 plaintiffs for an undisclosed sum.

All settlements prior to the latest one total $16.7 million and involve 47 claims of sexual abuse of a minor, diocese officials said.

There are four additional claims of abuse still pending in the diocese, Lori said.

The latest settlement brings to more than 70 the number of victims of childhood sexual abuse in the diocese, according to Tremont & Sheldon, the firm representing the victims.

"I would like to thank God for finally bringing this journey to an end and my prayer now is that all of the survivors and their families find closure and peace of mind," Mario O. Jaiman, one of the victims, said in a statement.

Jaiman, a 38-year-old Bridgeport resident, said he was abused several times, starting at the age of nine.

Lori said all but one of the priests involved in the new settlement are inactive, and three are dead.

Thirty-six of the cases involved abuse in the 1960s and 1970s, he said.

Attorneys for the victims said the abuses continued into the early 1990s during the tenure of New York Cardinal Edward Egan when he was Bridgeport bishop.

"Tremont & Sheldon believes that the Diocese of Bridgeport, including Cardinal Egan, allowed known sex abusers to continue on as active priests, enabling these offenders to have contact with children," the law firm said in a statement announcing the settlement.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, declined comment, referring questions back to Bridgeport.

Of the priests named in the settlement, the Rev. Joseph Gorecki, the Rev. Richard Grady and the Rev. Alfred Bietighofer, are dead.

Joseph DeShan and Martin Federici have been laicized, the diocese said.

The Reverends William Donovan, Raymond Pcolka, Charles Stubbs, Stanley Bonaszek, Walter Coleman, Sherman Gray, Albert McGoldrick, Robert Morrissey, Vincent Veich and Henry Albeke are all inactive.

The Rev. Martin Ryan was accused of misconduct with a 17-year-old woman 25 years ago and is not considered a threat to children, church officials said.

Albeke is the only priest whose name has not previously been made public in connection with the scandal, church officials said.

Tremont said all of the priests should be laicized to ensure they never return to the priesthood.

The complaint against Bietighofer, who killed himself last year, claims that he abused a boy at the rectory of the former St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Bridgeport from 1969 through the 1970s, when Bietighofer was pastor of the church.

Bietighofer also was accused of abusing altar boys at Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport.

Another man claims in a lawsuit that Federici abused him on numerous occasions in 1967 in the rectory of St. Theresa’s Parish in Trumbull. About a half-dozen people previously have accused Federici of abusing them.

Gorecki is accused in a third lawsuit of abusing a boy on numerous occasions between 1960 and 1964 at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Bridgeport.

One man claimed Stubbs abused him multiple times from 1967 to 1969 at St. Ann’s Church in Bridgeport and the former Notre Dame Girls High School in Bridgeport.


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