Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bridgeport, Connhn Paul II Pedophile Priests Army in Bridgeport, Connecticut

Open the files and invite the stranger

October 27th, 2009


How about a conciliatory gesture between Christians?

A homecoming gift, if you like.

Now that the Vatican has extended an invitation to Anglicans to join its flock, it may want to sweeten the pot with a little candor.

I am referring; of course, to the 12,000 pages of sexual abuse documents the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese insists are just too secret to share with the rest of us.

Now that the Roman Catholic Church, of which I am a part, wants to open its doors to disaffected Anglicans, perhaps the church will open those dusty old files, too. It would be a refreshing – if improbable ‑ gesture of candor.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider hearing the diocese’s case, which seems unlikely given that the court has already refused to block the documents release.

The Connecticut Supreme Court has twice upheld a ruling that the documents were subject to a presumption of public access.

For the last seven years, the Bridgeport Diocese, which settled 23 lawsuits that alleged sexual misconduct by eight of its diocesan priests, has resisted having government officials pawing through its papyrus. It asserts that it has a First Amendment right to keep its personnel documents to itself – even if those documents reveal how the church dealt with priests in its employ who allegedly committed vile crimes against children.

William Lori

Though it would be refreshing if the diocese would come to its senses and recognize that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to lose, public relations has never been the organization’s strong suit. After the Supreme Court rejected rejected the court-ordered release documents, the current Bridgeport bishop, William E. Lori, said, “The right of the church to determine the suitability of its own ministers has been compromised by this decision.”

The Bridgeport Diocese, then headed by former New York City Archbishop Edward Egan, now retired, seems to believe it is in 12th century England, wrangling with a mercurial Plantagenet over clerical control. If, of course, the diocese had done such a bang-up job on personnel screenings they would not have had to settle 23 lawsuits against it from former altar boys and parishioners said they were victims of sodomy, rape and brutality.

In one of the Bridgeport cases, a priest admitted biting a teenager’s penis during oral sex – which the priest “blessed…as a way to receive Holy Communion,” Time reported. That priest, Rev. Laurence Brett, was later discovered by The Hartford Courant, “living a secretive but comfortable life on the tropical island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean.”

This is not a diocese whose bishop should be uttering “suitability” and “ministers” in the same sentence.

Four newspapers, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the Hartford Courant and the Washington Post, sought to have the documents unsealed because they played, “an important part of the record of institutional decisions that caused many children harm,” the Times reported.

After seven years of stonewalling, perhaps the Bridgeport diocese should just fall on its scepter, realize the gig is up and rid itself of this humiliating spectacle.
Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York, holds mass April 10, 2005

Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York, holds mass April 10, 2005

In 2002, The Hartford Courant published several incriminating stories concerning how then-Bridgeport Bishop Edward Egan ignored accusations or protected priests who were accused of such carnal skullduggery . Wouldn’t it be refreshing for the Bridgeport Diocese to open those files up to refute such depraved assertions?

The Bridgeport Diocese won’t say how much it has spent to preserve the sanctity of its personnel files, but since the pedophilia scandal broke in 2000, six other Catholic diocese have filed for bankruptcy, largely as a result of a flood of lawsuits on sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by clergy members. As of 2004, sex-abuse related costs totaled $573 million, involved nearly 5,000 clergy who were accused of abusing 13,000 minors, reports the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

That same report indicated that, between 1950 to 2002, only 4 percent of Catholic clergy have had an allegation of abuse leveled against them. But the grim reality is that too many good priests have been tainted by the same despicable brush. Men who have led good and decent lives have been soured by the malevolence of others whose crimes have been veiled by the diocese’s counterproductive fixation with secrecy.

I’d love to be joined by my Anglican friends at the pew. But I cannot in any conscience invite my fellow Christians to be part of a church that has not only participated in this villainy, but has spent precious resources to cover it up. The church will be a better host for all of us when its skeletons, however odious, are out of the closet.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

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