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Conn. Diocese Admits to Dozens of Abuse Cases

Thursday Nov 26, 2009
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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport has acknowledged in court papers that it documented 32 accusations of sexual abuse of children by priests associated with a parish here over 40 years.

The diocese made the admission last week in contesting a lawsuit filed by the estate of Michael Powel, who died last year. Mr. Powel had claimed that he was sexually abused at St. Theresa’s Parish in Trumbull between 1968, when he was 9, and 1972, when he was 13.

The diocese is contesting a request from Mr. Powel’s lawyers to turn over all documents regarding sexual abuse by priests at the parish. In its filing in Superior Court in Waterbury, the diocese said it had compiled 126 boxes of documents and files detailing 32 accusations of abuse by eight priests at St. Theresa’s.

Nine of the alleged encounters occurred before 1973, according to the court papers, and 18 accusations cover encounters that allegedly occurred from 1973 to 1983. Two accusations involve the period from 1984 to 1989, and three pertain to the years since 1990.

The diocese is asking the court to allow it to withhold records on all allegations made after 1973, saying they are irrelevant to Mr. Powel’s lawsuit.

In its filing, the diocese said it should not have to spend thousand of dollars to review the documents "simply because Michael Powel alleges he was abused one time for one minute in the winter of 1971."

Mr. Powel’s lawyers said that the motion by the diocese was a "bait-and-switch" to avoid producing documents by Wednesday, a date previously agreed upon to provide discovery materials. Mr. Powel, a former Florida resident, alleged that he was repeatedly abused by a longtime parish landscaping employee, Carlo Fabbozzi. Mr. Powel also accused Mr. Fabbozzi of introducing him to a priest, the Rev. Joseph Gorecki, whom Powel accused of molesting him once at St. Theresa’s school in 1971.

A diocesan spokesman, Joseph McAleer, said priests from the parish who were found to have abused children are no longer in ministry and that the diocese removes from ministry any priest who is found to have abused a child.

The diocese has fought the release of abuse records in the past. This year, it unsuccessfully appealed to the United States Supreme Court in an attempt to block the release of more than 12,000 pages of documents generated by lawsuits against priests.

Judges have ruled that the documents be made public next week.

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