Bishop Frank Caggiano has agreed to meet with representatives of national and local victim support groups who Wednesday called for him to hire an outside firm to investigate two priests who have been accused in the past of sex abuse — including a prominent former Greenwich pastor who has admitted he hid more than 40 years of abuse complaints. But Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said although she is willing to meet with Caggiano, she would prefer to do so after he agrees to the investigation. “History has shown that meetings don’t always bear fruit, but actions speak louder than words,” Blaine said.
It would be the first time that a bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport agreed to meet with SNAP. Diocese spokesman Brian Wallace said the bishop was out of the office Wednesday with a bad cold, but told him, “He is more than willing to meet with them as soon as possible and is open to discussing the situation with them.” As of Wednesday afternoon, no meeting date had been set. The support groups want Caggiano to live up to his promise to be proactive regarding complaints against priests in the diocese and to publicly reveal why two priests, Monsignor William Genuario and Monsignor Martin Ryan, have been allowed to remain in ministry despite abuse complaints against them. “The bishop needs to hire an outside firm to investigate, someone independent, to determine if these priests should be in the ministry,” said Blaine. She has also called on the bishop to post the names and photographs of the priests on the diocese website. Genuario was pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Riverside from 1987 until 2004. Currently a member of the diocese’s marriage tribunal, he had been accused of abusing three boys in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ryan was recently appointed pastor of Our Lady of Grace Church in Stratford despite previously being removed as pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Church in New Fairfield for allegedly sexually harassing a female church employee and being accused of molesting a teenage girl in Trumbull in the 1970s. Although the diocese paid settlements for the alleged abuse, the diocese considers both priests to be in good standing. Genuario is politically connected — a relative is a former state Senate majority leader and now judge. At one time the second most powerful priest in the diocese, Genuario managed to fend off accusations of abuse and hide accusations of abuse against other priests for more than 40 years, according to court documents. Tom Kelly, of Bridgeport, said he informed diocesan officials in April 2002 that he had been abused by Genuario. Kelly said in 1967, when he was 13, he and several other boys went to Expo ’67 in Montreal with Genuario. He said while he was taking a shower, the priest, who was naked, tried to join him and asked Kelly to wash him. Kelly said diocese officials offered to provide him with counseling. While the diocese previously acknowledged the meeting with Kelly, no action was taken against the priest. The Bridgeport diocese later, under court order, released about 12,000 documents pertaining to several sex abuse claims made against priests during several decades. Some of those records disclosed how Genuario reviewed sex abuse complaints against priests and gave orders to move them around. Genuario in 1978 became vicar general of the diocese, the right-hand man of then-BishopWalter Curtis. In a 1997 deposition, Genuario testified about his involvement in handling complaints that had been filed against the Rev. Laurence Brett in the 1960s, alleging that Brett had been sexually abusing children. A male Sacred Heart University student complained that Brett, then chaplain at Sacred Heart, had sexually abused him. The incident was discussed in a letter written by Genuario on Dec. 2, 1964. The letter states that Brett admitted the incident. The letter went on to state that Brett was to be taken away. “A recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned should anyone ask.” In his deposition, released with other documents, Genuario admitted that not only did he prepare the so-called hepatitis letter, but also typed it himself. Asked why he did it, Genuario said, “I was the vice chancellor at the time and was called in to (do the work).” By 2003, the diocese had agreed to pay $37.7 million to settle dozens of claims of sex abuse committed by priests against minors, many of them altar boys. Dan Tepfer, Connecticut Post