A one-year investigation of the Bridgeport Catholic Diocese culminated in the release today of a report listing 71 diocese priests accused of sexually abusing minors, since 1953 to the present. Among the names is Charles Carr, a former priest assigned to Wilton’s Our Lady of Fatima parish from 1981-1984. The report notes Carr is accused of 12 incidents of abuse, eight of which were alleged to have happened during the time he was assigned to Wilton.
Overall, 281 victims of abuse were identified during the diocese’s six decade history.
The independent investigation was led by retired CT superior court Judge Robert Holzberg, who directed the almost one-year effort of a team of attorneys and professionals from Pullman & Comley, with what Holzberg said was full cooperation from the current diocese leader, Bishop Frank Caggiano.
The incidents of sexual abuse attributed to Carr occurred from 1979-1990. The 12 victims ranged in age from 9-15. Of the incidents documented in the report, eight fall during the time period Carr was assigned to Wilton (1981-1984).
He later had assignments at St. Thomas the Apostle (Norwalk, 1985-1986); St. Catherine of Siena (Trumbull, 1987-1988); Central Catholic High School (Norwalk, 1990); St. Philip (Norwalk, 1990-1991); and St. Andrew, (Bridgeport, 1992-1995). He took a leave of absence from CT in 1996, was removed from the ministry in 2002 and laicized in 2005.
Holzberg’s report states that former church leadership knew of ongoing sexual abuse by priests in the diocese and engaged in efforts to cover up reports of sexual abuse and protect clergy who were accused. The report is particularly damning to former Bishop Edward Egan, saying his response “was profoundly unsympathetic, inadequate, and inflammatory.”
Among the conclusions stated in the report:
- “The existence of sexual abuse by certain priests of this diocese, particularly abuse of children, was known to the diocesan leadership at least as early as 1953. 281 individuals have been identified as having been abused during the diocese’s approximately 66-year history, nearly all when they were minors, by 71 priests. The 71 priests constitute 4.7% of the approximately 1,500 priests who have served the diocese since 1953.
- “It is likely that there are more victims and clergy abusers than we have identified. Bishop Walter Curtis, acknowledged purging and destroying records concerning sexual abuse of minors. For the first 40 years of the diocese, until the early 2000s, the record-keeping and archival system of the diocese was inadequate and antiquated, creating the possibility that even with our review of 250,000 paper and electronic records we have not identified all clergy sexual abusers and their victims.
- “Until 1990, Bishops Curtis and Egan failed even to acknowledge, let alone comply with, their legal obligations arising from the 1971 state law mandating that priests report allegations of child sexual abuse to either law enforcement or the Department of Children and Families.
- “Bishop Egan’s response was profoundly unsympathetic, inadequate, and inflammatory. He openly acknowledged to his staff, and signaled to the public through his behavior, that he believed his principal responsibility was to preserve the assets and reputation of the diocese rather than to work for the well-being of survivors and secure justice for them.
- “Bishop William Lori and present Bishop Caggiano have reversed the diocese’s approach to reporting abuse and disciplining abusers. They have adopted and enforced policies requiring that all credible abuse allegations be reported to civil authorities, as well as “up the chain” within the Church itself. They have adopted “zero-tolerance” policies for priests (and other diocesan personnel), committing to permanently and completely removing clergy from duty for any incident of sexual abuse. They have diligently used the procedures made available to them by the Holy See to dismiss the gravest offenders from the priesthood altogether.
- “While we cannot be certain that sexual abuse is not currently occurring in the diocese, we have not identified any report of abuse occurring since 2008, and this is likely attributable, in part, to the diligent new prevention and awareness programs instituted by Bishops Lori and Caggiano. The reader should also bear in mind, however, that reporting of sexual abuse is often long delayed, and the present quiet does not necessarily mean that abuse has not occurred since 2008.”
The complete report has been posted to the Bridgeport Diocese website.
Bishop Caggiano also released a letter to the public, noting that during the investigation the church provided “unfettered access” to diocesan files, which included more than 250,000 records. Investigators reviewed documents, inspected parish offices, files, and computers, and conducted interviews with key participants.
In his letter, Caggiano called publication of the report a “crucial step forward,” one he hopes and prays helps victims find closure and reconciliation. He also offers an apology: “I wish again to offer my profound and heartfelt apology to all who have suffered abuse at the hands of any cleric in our Diocese. I also apologize to all those who have lost a sense of trust or feel betrayed by Church leadership.”
Caggiano makes a “personal commitment… to do whatever is humanly possible to eradicate this evil from our midst. I also pledge to swiftly implement the recommendations included in Judge Holzberg’s Report in the months ahead.”