Judge: Former Priest's Files Can Be Opened

By Greg Smith
Norwich Bulletin [Middletown CT]
April 11, 2003

MIDDLETOWN -- A Middlesex County judge ruled Wednesday that personnel files should be opened to the public in the civil case of a former priest in the Norwich Roman Catholic Diocese accused in the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old.

Judge Daniel F. Spallone denied a motion for a protective order by the Norwich Diocese that would have shielded the records of former Westbrook and New London priest Bruno Primavera from public view.

Primavera is accused of sexually molesting Michael Nelligan, while a pastor at St. Mark's the Evangelist Church in the Norwich Diocese in the late 1970s.

In another civil suit, Primavera is accused of sexual abuse while he was assigned to St Mary's Church in New London.

Primavera was later sent to New Mexico, where he was a priest and counselor at New Mexico Military Institute. While in New Mexico, Primavera was arrested and convicted of felony sexual offense involving his students, according to New London lawyer Robert I. Reardon Jr.

Reardon, who represents Nelligan and "John Doe," in another case against the Norwich Diocese, has said the church failed to recognize the problem and instead disregarded it.

In the complaint, Reardon states that Bishop Daniel Reilly -- who served as Norwich's bishop from 1975 until 1994 -- and officials at St. Mark's disregarded several claims that Primavera was sexually exploiting children.

The Diocese maintained documents relating to Primavera and sought restrictions for their disclosure and dissemination to the public until a jury is selected.

A protective order would have avoided publicity and impairment of a fair trial, argued Diocese attorney Joseph Sweeney. State law typically protects personnel files, he said.

"We did what we had to do in fairness to Father Primavera," Sweeney said. "Attorney Reardon takes great delight in beating up on the Catholic Church as an institution."

In his ruling, Judge Spallone said, "All courts have experienced scrutiny where the case is subject to intense media focus."

"It is well established that democracy, truth and justice flourish in the bright light of openness, where, on the other hand, they wilt in the shadows of secrecy."

Reardon could not be reached for comment on the ruling.


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