Diocese of Bridgeport working to achieve fair resolution of claims of sexual abuse
Diocese of Bridgeport
October 18, 2002
BRIDGEPORT, CT, Thursday, October 17, 2002, 4:00 p.m. (Updated Friday, October 18, 2002, 5:15 p.m.) - In keeping with its policy to deal with all allegations of sexual abuse and facilitate the healing process for victims and their families, the Diocese of Bridgeport announced today that it is working with the law firm of Tremont & Sheldon, P.C., to begin a mediation process towards a fair, just, and reasonable resolution of more than 30 claims of sexual abuse by 10 inactive priests.
All of the claims were brought to the attention of the Diocese of Bridgeport within the past five months. U.S. Magistrate William I. Garfinkel of the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport has agreed to act as a mediator to attempt to resolve these sexual abuse claims against the Diocese.
The details of the accused priests are as follows:
Three of the 10 accused priests are deceased: Father Joseph H. Gorecki (who died in 1988), Father Richard J. Grady (1993), and Father Alfred J. Bietighofer (2002). Father Grady was pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Bridgeport, and Saint Leo Parish in Stamford.
One was a member of a religious order: Father Stanley Bonaszek, M.M., a Maryknoll priest. The Diocese has informed the Provincial of the Maryknoll Order of the claim of sexual abuse. According to the Maryknoll Order, Father Bonaszek has no authorization to function as a priest. Father Bonaszek worked at the former Saint Anthony Parish in Bridgeport, and left the Diocese in 1987.
One is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport who is living in another diocese but is not functioning as a priest. The Diocese has not yet interviewed the priest to investigate the claim of sexual abuse, but the Bishop of the other diocese has been informed.
The remaining accused priests, all of whom are inactive and have no authorization to function as a priest, are: Father William D. Donovan, Father Martin J. Federici, Father Raymond S. Pcolka, Monsignor Charles W. Stubbs, and Joseph DeShan (who has been laicized).
In three of five lawsuits that have been filed, the former Bishop of Bridgeport, His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan, is named as a defendant, despite the fact that the alleged abuse occurred 15-20 years prior to his arrival in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Cardinal Egan has been advised of the lawsuits and says that he supports the efforts of the Diocese of Bridgeport to achieve a just resolution.
"The Diocese of Bridgeport has been cooperating fully with the attorneys of Tremont & Sheldon," says Michael T. Dolan, General Counsel for the Diocese of Bridgeport. "We have interviewed the plaintiffs and offered a sincere apology and counseling services. They have also been invited to meet personally with Bishop William E. Lori."
"While we understand that the lawsuits had to be filed to protect the plaintiffs' rights under the statute of limitations, we hope and expect that litigation will not be necessary," Attorney Dolan continues. "With the support of Bishop Lori and full cooperation of Tremont & Sheldon, we have begun a mediation process which we hope will result in a fair, just, and reasonable resolution."
In order to preserve the integrity of the mediation process and the rights of the victims, both the Diocese of Bridgeport and Tremont & Sheldon have decided not to comment further until a resolution has been achieved.
"I have always pledged to deal with any allegation of sexual abuse swiftly, decisively, and fairly," says Bishop Lori. "In the spirit of healing for all victims of abuse, I am confident that, in these cases, we can achieve a just resolution, which we will then communicate openly."
In recent months, the Diocese of Bridgeport has resolved three claims of sexual abuse by victims who were represented by Tremont & Sheldon. The claims involved three inactive priests: Monsignor Charles W. Stubbs, Father Joseph P. Moore, and Father Charles T. Carr. All three claims resulted in a financial settlement subject to a confidentiality agreement. The settlements were funded by the Diocese through insurance reserves.
In addition to the claims involved in this process, the Diocese of Bridgeport is also investigating a number of other claims of sexual abuse. The Diocese is encouraging the inclusion of all claims of sexual abuse in the current mediation process in an attempt to achieve a global settlement.