Monsignor William Genuario, April 10, 1997.
BRIDGEPORT — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport has acknowledged for the first time that a prominent cleric, who according to court documents played a major role in hiding cases of abuse by priests, was “credibly accused” of abusing a child.
Monsignor William Genuario, who died in June 2015, had been the vicar general of the diocese and reviewed accusations of sexual abuse against priests. Genuario also was a prominent priest in Greenwich for almost 20 years.
The diocese also stated that another dead priest, the Rev. Vincent Cleary, was determined to have a credible allegation of abuse against him.
“It is with deep regret that I must inform you of the inclusion of two deceased priests of the diocese on the list of those credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano stated in a letter to parishioners dated Sept. 7.
Tom Kelly, of Bridgeport, who had informed diocesan officials in April 2002 he had been abused by Genuario in 1967, when Kelly was 13, said the statement by the bishop gives him a form of vindication, although it took 17 years to happen.
“I don’t want to be vindictive, all I wanted was vindication, but perhaps the bishop should be apologizing to the victims of abuse rather than to parishioners,” Kelly said.
The bishop stated that in 2002 and 2004, when claims of abuse from many years earlier were brought forward against Genuario, the Diocesan Review Board reviewed but did not find credibility with these allegations.
“However, the diocese has since received notice of another allegation of abuse against Monsignor Genuario, also dating back more than 30 years,” the bishop stated. “Upon receipt of this additional allegation, I asked our current review board to review all the allegations against Monsignor Genuario.”
Caggiano said the review board met several times and considered the information on the recent allegation, as well as earlier allegations, including information provided by Genuario while he was alive.
“After a full review, the Board has recommended a finding of credibility. I concur with their finding and accept their recommendation,” the bishop said.
“For years the diocese was aware of complaints against Monsignor Genuario for sex abuse of minors and in fact settled claims involving him,” said Jason Tremont whose law firm has represented victims with abuse claims against the monsignor. “Incredibly, the diocese allowed Genuario to continue in the ministry despite knowing about his prior abuse of children as well as his significant role in the sex abuse cover-up within the diocese.”
Genuario in 1978 became vicar general of the diocese, the right-hand man of then Bishop Walter Curtis.
In a 1997 deposition, Genuario testified about his involvement in handling complaints that had been filed against the Rev. Laurence Brett in the 1960s, alleging that Brett had been sexually abusing children.
A Sacred Heart University student complained that Brett, then chaplain at SHU, had sexually abused him. The incident was discussed in a letter written by Genuario on Dec. 2, 1964, which states that Brett admitted to the incident.
The letter went on to state that Brett was to be taken away — “A recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned should anyone ask.”
In his deposition, Genuario admitted that not only did he prepare the so-called hepatitis letter but also typed it himself. Asked why he did it, Genuario added, “I was the vice chancellor at the time and was called in to (do the work).”
Genuario, later served as pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in the Riverside section in Greenwich for 17 years until his retirement in 2004.
Cleary was ordained in 1944, and in addition to serving at St. Augustine Parish, served at St. John Parish in Stamford, St. Joseph Parish in South Norwalk and was the pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford from 1963 until his death in 1989.
“In our ongoing review of allegations of sexual abuse against deceased priests one allegation against Father Vincent P. Cleary was uncovered. Within the last several months, another allegation came forward against Father Cleary that provided strong substantiation to the prior claim,” the bishop stated. He said both claims date back to more than fifty years ago and the review board, upon consideration of both claims, found credibility.
“I concur with their finding and accept their recommendation regarding Father Cleary,” the bishop stated.