Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Diocesan Statement on Msgr. Bronkiewicz Letter

Bishop Caggiano has received the email from Msgr. Laurence Bronkiewicz questioning the validity of the Accountability Report by Judge Holzberg. He is aware that Msgr. Bronkiewicz’s letter has also been widely distributed to others throughout the diocese.

The Bishop regrets Msgr. Bronkiewicz’s words, which will further wound victims of abuse and all those who have demanded a truthful and comprehensive account of the abuse crisis in the diocese.

To portray himself as a victim of the crisis when so many young people were abused and experienced lifelong trauma is at the very least dismissive of their suffering and their need for transparency and truth on the part of Church leaders.  His remarks are both insensitive and inappropriate given the heinous crime of child sexual abuse and the Church’s past failure to respond to the crisis.

The Judge’s report draws from letters and other documents signed by Msgr. Bronkiewicz. They are a matter of public record and they speak for themselves.

The diocese stands by the October 1 Accountability Report after a year of independent investigation by Judge Robert Holzberg. The bishop has publicly accepted its conclusions and pledged to follow through on the Judge’s recommendations to further protect children and strengthen its Safe Environments program.

Though Msgr. Bronkiewicz’s remarks are a setback to the spirit of transparency and accountability achieved by the report, the diocese will not be deterred in its efforts going forward. The report is an invitation of all people of goodwill to move forward in the truth and to join together to protect children from the evils of abuse.

Click here for the Connecticut Post Article

Deceased Priests Added to List of Credibly Accused

September 7, 2019

It is with deep regret that I must inform you of the inclusion of two deceased priests of the diocese on the list of those credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. Father Vincent P. Cleary, deceased in 1989, who served at St. Augustine Parish between 1944 and 1959, and Monsignor William Genuario, deceased in 2015, former pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish of Riverside, will be added to the list of priests credibly accused for allegations which date back more than thirty (30) years.

Father Vincent P. Cleary was ordained in 1944, and in addition to serving at St. Augustine Parish, served at St. John Parish in Stamford, St. Joseph Parish in South Norwalk and was the pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford from 1963 until his death in 1989. It is critical to note that there were two Father Vincent P. Clearys and a Father Joseph Cleary who all served in the Diocese of Bridgeport. There are no allegations against the other Father Vincent P. Cleary, who was ordained in 1939 and died in 1965, nor are there allegations against Father Joseph Cleary, who was ordained in 1933 and died in 1971.

In our ongoing review of allegations of sexual abuse against deceased priests (recall that until approximately one year ago, the Review Board did not review allegations against deceased priests), one allegation against Father Vincent P. Cleary was uncovered. Within the last several months, another allegation came forward against Father Cleary that provided strong substantiation to the prior claim. Both claims date back to more than fifty years ago. The Review Board, upon consideration of both claims, found credibility. I concur with their finding and accept their recommendation regarding Father Cleary.

Monsignor Genuario served at St. Catherine for 17 years beginning in 1987, retiring as the pastor there in 2004. In addition to service to many other parishes, Monsignor also served in a number of senior roles in the diocese, including Vicar General and Judicial Vicar in the Marriage Tribunal. In both 2002 and 2004, when claims of abuse from many years earlier were brought forward, the Diocesan Review Board reviewed, but did not find credibility, with these allegations.

However, the Diocese has since received notice of another allegation of abuse against Monsignor Genuario, also dating back more than thirty years. Upon receipt of this additional allegation, I asked our current Review Board to review all the allegations against Monsignor Genuario. The Board met on several occasions and considered the available information on the recent allegation, as well as the information on the earlier allegations, including information provided by Monsignor while he was alive. Be assured that we took all measures to fairly and thoroughly investigate these allegations while recognizing that Monsignor, now deceased, was unable to defend himself against the most recent allegation. After a full review, the Board has recommended a finding of credibility. I concur with their finding and accept their recommendation.

I realize that the inclusion of two more of our clergy on our list of credibly accused is distressing news and further wounds our Church and our family of faith. Know that we remain committed to transparency in the handling of cases and will continue to pursue the truth on behalf of those that we serve.

I ask your prayers for all involved and pledge that we as a diocese will work to fulfill the sacred obligation we share to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults in our community.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport

SAFE ENVIRONMENTS:
To report suspected abuse involving a minor, recently or in the past, contact: Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., diocesan director of Safe Environments: 203.650.3265; or Michael Tintrup, L.C.S.W., victim assistance counselor: 203.241.0987. Mandated reporters must also directly report any incident of sexual abuse of a minor to the State of Connecticut Child Abuse and Neglect care line: 800.842.2288.

Statement about Fr. Gleeson

August 24, 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with deep regret that I must inform you that I have put Father Stephen Gleeson on administrative leave and have removed his faculties to exercise public ministry as a priest.

Father Gleeson retired on June 30, 2013 after nearly 50 years of service as a priest, most recently as the pastor of St. Stephen Parish. My decision was made after our Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board ruled that there is credible evidence of an incident of sexual abuse of a minor on the part of Father Gleeson more than 35 years ago. Although the incident happened many years ago, the Diocese first became aware of it in 2002. At that time, there was insufficient information to find the allegation credible. However, in light of a new review based on certain additional information, it has been determined that there is credibility associated with this allegation.

In accordance with both state reporting mandates and the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the “Charter”), we notified the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) immediately. Given the limited information available and the time which had passed, DCF did not accept the matter for investigation.

At the same time, I convened the Sexual Misconduct Review Board and commenced an investigation into the allegations. The lengthy investigation included interviews with the accused, the victim, and others. The Review Board, after several deliberative sessions, ultimately found that the allegation was credible. Please be assured that we took all measures to fairly and thoroughly investigate the allegations while protecting the privacy of the victim.

As a result and in accordance with the Charter, Father Gleeson is prohibited from any future ministry. Lay leadership of St. Stephen Parish was notified of my action in advance of this letter. We have taken steps to work with Father Gleeson in this transition, and the services of our diocesan clergy counselor have been made available to him. Diocesan personnel will be available to the parishioners of St. Stephen, where Father Gleeson served for so many years.

It is important to note that we are not aware of any other allegations of misconduct involving minors by Father Gleeson during his ministry. While a finding of credibility under the Charter has occurred, Father Gleeson will have the opportunity to choose to participate in a canonical trial to review the evidence in order to determine guilt or innocence.

I realize that this is distressing news for the faithful and it further wounds the diocese and our Church as a family of faith. I can only reassure you that we remain committed to transparency in the handling of cases. It is for that reason that you are hearing of this news from me first.

I ask your prayers for all involved and pledge that we as a diocese will continue to do everything in our power to fulfill the sacred obligation we share to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults in our community.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport

SAFE ENVIRONMENTS:
To report suspected abuse involving a minor, recently or in the past, contact: Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., diocesan director of Safe Environments: 203.650.3265; or Michael Tintrup, L.C.S.W., victim assistance counselor: 203.241.0987. Mandated reporters must also directly report any incident of sexual abuse of a minor to the State of Connecticut Child Abuse and Neglect care line: 800.842.2288.

Statement from Bishop Caggiano on Updates to the List of Credibly Accused Clergy in the Diocese of Bridgeport

OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

March 22, 2019

It is with much regret and concern for all those who are survivors of sexual abuse that I must announce that the following ten clergy who served in the Diocese of Bridgeport have been added to our list of Credibly Accused Clergy. These clergy include eight diocesan priests who are deceased, one retired diocesan priest who is alive and is on Permanent Administrative Leave and one Venezuelan priest who was present in the Diocese for one summer in 1991.

James A Gay, a retired priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport who served in the Diocese from 1959 to 1984 at St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport, Immaculate High School, St. Mary Parish in Bethel and St. Mary High School in Greenwich. He then left the Diocese and served until his retirement in 2004 from the Archdiocese of the Military in the U.S. Navy. He is accused of a single incident of sexual abuse of a 16-year old boy when he was the principal of St. Mary High School. His faculties have been removed since the allegation came forward in 2006. He is currently on Permanent Administrative Leave and cannot function as a priest.

John Draper was a priest of the Diocese ordained in 1953 and died in 1966. He served at St. Theresa Parish, Trumbull, St. Mary Parish, Greenwich, St. Joseph Hospital Stamford, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Fairfield, St. Mary Parish, Ridgefield and St. Joseph Parish, Shelton. He died in New York City in 1966 at the age of 39. He is credibly accused of a single allegation of sexual abuse with an altar boy of undisclosed age in 1958. On full review in 2019, this allegation was deemed credible.

William Fletcher was ordained in 1944 and died in 1988. He served at several parishes including St. Joseph Parish, Danbury, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Fairfield, St. Margaret Mary Parish, Shelton, and spent most of his career at Sacred Heart University until his death in 1988. He is credibly accused of a single allegation with a 14-year-old girl in 1964 while serving at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Shelton.

Martin Hitchcock was ordained in 1951, retired in 1991 and died in 2014. He served at St. James Parish, Stratford, and St. Peter Parish, Danbury. He also served and was in residence while serving as Superintendent of Schools at St. Mary Parish, Bethel, St. Joseph Parish, Danbury, St. Lawrence Parish Shelton, and Notre Dame Parish in Easton. He served as the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Greenwich from 1971 to 1991, from where he retired. He is accused of two allegations dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, one of which was reported in 2018. Based on receipt of this new information, a full review of his file was conducted and the two allegations against him were deemed credible.

James McCormick was ordained in 1916 and died in 1965. He served at St. Joseph in South Norwalk from 1951 to 1954. He is accused of a soliciting two young men, one minor in 1953 and another in 1954 who was likely a minor. One of these incidents was reported to the Diocese by the police in 1953 with the police not taking any action beyond this reporting. His ministry was restricted in 1954 by Bishop Shehan. The available information on these allegations was reviewed and deemed credible in 2019.

Bartholomew Laurello was ordained in 1946 and died in 2004. He served at Holy Rosary Parish, Bridgeport, St. Catherine Parish, Riverside, St. Raphael Parish, Bridgeport and was the pastor at Our Lady of Grace in Stratford for fifteen years beginning in 1980. He is credibly accused of a single allegation of sexual abuse of a 14-year old boy when he was at St. Roch in 1965. This allegation first came forward in 2017, was investigated, reviewed, and deemed credible in 2019.

William R. Nagle was ordained in 1955 and died in 1979. He served at St. Clement, Stamford, St. Vincent Hospital, Bridgeport and the Diocesan Tribunal as Judge. He is accused of sexual abuse with a minor boy who was an altar boy that began when the boy was 13 in approximately 1971. The information was reviewed in 2019 and was deemed credible. It is important to note that this is not the priest of a similar name, Monsignor William Aloysius Nagle, a priest of the Diocese ordained in 1949 with a long-distinguished career at many parishes, who died in 2014 after serving as pastor of St. John in Stamford from 1973 to 1998.

Boleslaus “Bill” Rarus was ordained in 1940 and died in 2005. He served at a number of Diocesan parishes including Holy Name in Stamford, St. Joseph, Brookfield and St. Paul in Greenwich. There were two third party complaints in his file that lacked corroboration; however, in 2019, the Diocese received two additional allegations dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. On review, these multiple allegations were deemed credible.

Paul Spodnick was ordained in 1927 and died in 1976. He served at several parishes including St. John Nepomucene Parish, Bridgeport, St. Mary Parish, Bethel, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Bridgeport, St. Benedict in Stamford. He also ministered at St. Joseph Manor in Trumbull. He was accused of soliciting and attempting to fondle up to three teenage minor girls at undetermined dates likely between 1955 and 1970. On review in 2019, these several allegations were deemed credible.

Jose Daniel Alberran a diocesan priest from the Diocese of Barcelona in Venezuela spent one summer at St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport in 1991. He is credibly accused of sexual abuse of a 14-year old girl. He left the parish at the end of the summer and did not return. We are unable to determine his current whereabouts or whether he is still alive. On investigation, there is no verifiable evidence of his continuing ministry as a Catholic priest. His home Diocese of Barcelona, Venezuela has been notified regarding this allegation and our determination of a credible accusation.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano

View the full list of accused clerics

Bishop’s March 2019 Update Letter

OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

March 22, 2019

My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

I am writing to provide you an update about our ongoing efforts to address the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Diocese of Bridgeport. I specifically wish to address the following topics:

  1. Provide an update on the work of Judge Robert Holzberg and his comprehensive report on clergy abuse of minors in our Diocese and the diocesan response to this abuse
  2. The reorganization of our list of credibly accused clergy
  3. Additions to our list of credibly accused clergy
  4. The reporting of names of clergy on whose behalf settlements have been paid
  5. The establishment of a hotline for reporting information to Judge Holzberg related to past clergy abuse of minors in the Diocese and
  6. Three upcoming listening sessions for the faithful of the Diocese.

Each of these initiatives, which is explained in more detail below, is intended to continue our healing journey in an open and transparent manner.

1. Judge Holzberg Update

As I reported to you in my letter dated October 3, 2018, the Diocese invited retired Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg to conduct a comprehensive review of all diocesan files related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Diocese since its inception in 1953, and the diocesan response to such abuse. That work has begun in earnest by the Judge and his team. The task of identifying and reviewing the documents relevant to this review has been arduous and time-consuming. The attached letter from the Judge provides an update on his progress to date. He projects that his work will be completed no sooner than June 30, 2019. I urge you to read the letter for specific details on the critical work completed to date by Judge Holzberg and his team.

2. The Reorganized List of Credibly Accused Clergy

The Diocese has published information on its website regarding credibly accused clergy dating back to 2002. In 2015, the Diocese organized this information and published a streamlined list on the website in October 2015. We continue to review all of our Safe Environment practices to ensure the utmost transparency, particularly regarding our list of credibly accused clergy. To that end, today I have approved the posting of a reorganized list of credibly accused clergy, divided into the following four categories: (1) Credibly Accused Diocesan Clergy, Living; (2) Credibly Accused Diocesan Clergy, Deceased; (3) Credibly Accused Religious Order Clergy, Living or Deceased; and (4) Credibly Accused Clergy Visiting from Other Dioceses, Living or Deceased. New to this list are the diocesan assignment dates for those credibly accused as well as whether they were subject to a single allegation or multiple allegations of abuse. We believe these changes provide a clearer picture of accused clergy, their assignments and their specific connection to the ministries of the Diocese.

3. Updates to the List of Credibly Accused Clergy

Three circumstances have led to the addition of ten names to our list of Credibly Accused Clergy:

  1. The work of our diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board has been expanded to consider allegations of abuse against deceased clergy. Many of these allegations significantly predate the creation of this Board and therefore were not investigated under the guidelines of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the “Charter”). These cases have now been reviewed to assess credibility.
  2. In the last several months, we have received new allegations of sexual abuse of minors against clergy in our Diocese that date back many years. These reports were forwarded both to civil authorities (the Department of Children and Families) and presented to the Sexual Misconduct Review Board for investigation and a determination of credibility.
  3. We have also re-reviewed certain cases in which new information has become available, or further review was deemed necessary. These reviews included allegations against both living and deceased clergy.

In 2002, when the Charter first led to the creation of the Sexual Misconduct Review Board, its stated purpose was to determine the suitability of an accused clergy member to return to ministry. Thus, the Diocese did not present allegations against deceased priests to the Sexual Misconduct Review Board. However, with a renewed focus on survivors of abuse and the need for transparency, I have expanded the scope of the Sexual Misconduct Review Board to review files of accused deceased clergy not previously presented to the Board, a process which was arduous and time consuming. For the diligent work of the Review Board, I am most grateful. Many of the allegations had limited information and necessitated a steadfast focus on the available facts and information. While some may argue that this presents an unfair judgment against clergy unable to defend themselves, be assured that any such case was given careful and thorough consideration before a determination of credibility was established.

With this recently completed review by the Board and its recommendations sent to me regarding credibility, the Diocese is now updating its list to include the names of ten additional priests, nine of whom are diocesan priests (8 deceased and 1 living) and one is a visiting priest from a Venezuelan diocese who spent only the summer of 1991 in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The one living diocesan priest is retired and has not served in the Diocese since 1984. His faculties were removed in 2006. He was placed on permanent administrative leave as a result of an allegation in 2006 of sexual abuse of a minor dating back to 1976. The Archdiocese of Military Services, where he had served for many years, was notified of the allegation. In 2019, the Review Board reaffirmed the decision that he should remain on permanent administrative leave. This list will continue to be updated as new information or allegations come forward and a determination of credibility is made.

4. Disclosure of Settlements Paid

As mentioned above, the Diocese has now published an additional list that includes the names of all clergy on whose behalf settlements were reached because of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. As a follow-up to the Financial Report issued on November 1, 2018, I determined that it is important and prudent to disclose the names of all clergy on whose behalf settlements were paid. It is crucial to note that in some cases, a settlement may have been paid as part of a larger global settlement or for strategic or administrative purposes without rendering a finding of credibility against the accused clergy. The Settlement List presents the names of those clergy who were not found credibly accused separately from those who have been credibly accused.

5. Reporting Hotline

As a part of Judge Holzberg’s review, a confidential hotline has been established. As indicated in his attached letter, the Judge and his team want to encourage the people of the Diocese to speak to them directly regarding what they know of the past sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy as well the diocesan response to such abuse.

The hotline, recently announced on the diocesan website, is 1-833-990-0004 and the website on which to make an on-line report is www.lighthouse-services.com/diobpt. Despite the confidentiality of this hotline, it is critical to note that any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor that has not been previously reported must be reported to civil authorities. The contact information for the Department for Children and Families is 800-842-2288 and the Office for Safe Environment for the Diocese of Bridgeport is 1-203-416-1406 or 203-650-3265.

6. Listening Sessions

Finally, as your diocesan Bishop, I am committed to hearing your concerns directly as we continue our healing journey together. To that end, I have scheduled three listening sessions at which I will be available to respond to your concerns and questions.

  • April 3, 7:30 pm at Notre Dame High School in Fairfield;
  • April 9, 7:30 pm at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull; and
  • May 1, 6:30 pm at Immaculate High School in Danbury

While there are many issues associated with this crisis to be dealt with on both the global and national levels, I remain determined to move forward with whatever tangible steps are possible to address this grave matter in the Diocese of Bridgeport. I encourage you to attend one of these listening sessions.

I have been both humbled and gratified by the steadfast support and encouragement I have received from the people of the Diocese in our common effort to heal our Diocese and our Church. Most of all, I am deeply grateful to those men and women who have suffered at the hands of their abusers and are now working actively to serve as advocates and agents of healing. Their generosity of spirit and commitment are for me both a personal inspiration and a sign of great hope.

As your Bishop, I am committed to remaining transparent and instituting whatever change is needed to better respond to those affected by abuse. I recognize that any restoration of trust will require a continued diligent effort on my part, as well as on the part of all of us who love the Church.

During these difficult days, please be assured of my prayers for you and your families. I also ask that you continue to pray for the lay leadership of the Church, our clergy and for me.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano

Bishop provides update on Accountability Report

My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

In my letter of September 7, 2018, I announced the urgent need for administrative action with regards to the current crisis in the Church. Several initiatives have already begun and additional initiatives are planned. I am pleased to take this opportunity to report on these efforts.

Read More ››

Diocese Releases Financial Accountability Report

My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

I write to you today to report the findings related to certain action items I communicated in my September 8, 2018 letter addressing the sexual abuse crisis as it has impacted our Diocese.

In my letter to the faithful, I announced that, by today, I would issue a comprehensive Financial Accountability Report regarding the settlement amounts for past claims of clergy sexual abuse of minors from the establishment of the Diocese to the present, along with a verified summary of the financial support currently provided by the Diocese to any priest who has been accused of sexual abuse of a minor and who is currently on administrative leave or has been laicized.

The much-needed financial accounting that is the focus of this report only hints at the profound toll of human and spiritual suffering caused by the sexual abuse of children. My hope is that as we communicate these findings, we will further the process of healing and reconciliation, address the legitimate desire for change, and restore your confidence in every level of leadership so that we can fully realize the divine mission of the Church.

Allow me to conclude by offering a personal reflection. My heart breaks at the harm to victims and betrayal of the faithful caused by the sin of abuse, and the Church’s repeated failure to act decisively and transparently to protect young people. I wish to express my heartfelt apology to all those affected by this tragedy. I also recognize that restoring trust will require the heroic witness of holiness on the part of every priest, especially myself. I am confident that the Lord will heal and strengthen us, one person at a time.

I pray that this financial report and other measures we are taking represent the beginning of a new chapter of transparency and accountability in the diocese and a significant step toward bringing closure to all those who have sought justice and a full accounting of an issue that has deeply wounded so many people and life of our entire Church.

During these troubling days, please be assured of my prayers for you and your families. I also ask that you continue to pray for the lay leadership of the Church, our clergy and for me.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

 

Click here to read the Financial Accountability Report.

Statement on Father Rebaque

Dear Parishioners of Saint Peter Parish,

I am writing to you this weekend to share some information regarding Father José Rebaque, S.A.C., who has served at Saint Peter’s since 2008, first as Parochial Vicar and, since July 2015, as Parochial Administrator. As you know, Father José has been absent from the parish for the past several weeks.

On September 17th, it was brought to the attention of the Diocese that, in January of 2017, Father José, while on a cruise sponsored by the parish, had shared a cabin on the ship with a 15-year-old boy. While Father José was traveling with this minor with the knowledge and consent of the boy’s parents, with whom he is close friends, and while there is no allegation of any kind of abuse, this was an egregious violation of the diocesan Code of Conduct. Therefore, the Diocese immediately began to investigate the matter and contacted Father José, who was traveling out of the country at the time.

On Tuesday, September 25th, at my direction, Monsignor Thomas Powers, Vicar General, met with Father José, who returned from his trip the night before, and informed him that, in accord with diocesan policy, he was immediately suspended from the exercise of priestly ministry while the matter was being investigated. Father José was instructed to vacate the rectory of Saint Peter Parish and to temporarily move into the Queen of the Clergy Residence in Stamford, which is the diocesan home for retired priests. The Diocese duly informed Father José’s religious superiors and brought the case before the Diocesan Review Board.

It is important to reiterate that Father José has not been accused of sexual abuse and that both the boy with whom he shared the cabin, and the boy’s parents, have stated that nothing inappropriate took place between them. However, because Father José’s decision was so imprudent and disregarded the safeguards that have been put into place to protect children, I have determined that, effective immediately, Father José will no longer serve as Parochial Administrator of Saint Peter Parish, nor have an assignment in the Diocese in the future. Since Father José is a member of the Pallottines, the Diocese has sent notice to his religious superiors of this action and has asked for their guidance regarding the course of action they wish to take regarding Father José’s future. While we await a response from his provincial, Father José will remain in residence at Queen of Clergy.

It is of great importance to me that the pastoral needs of Saint Peter Parish continue to be met, both now and in the future. For that reason, I will appoint a new Parochial Administrator, who will hopefully be in place in early December. During this time of transition, which I know will be difficult for some of you and for Father José, please keep everyone involved in your prayers. It is my intention to visit you personally as soon as I am able. Until then, be assured of my continued prayers for you, your families and Saint Peter Parish.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

Bishop Caggiano’s Letter Regarding the Clerical Sexual Abuse Accountability Report

October 1, 2019

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I write today to inform you that retired Connecticut Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg has released the Clerical Sexual Abuse Accountability Report for our Diocese, which I commissioned on October 3, 2018.

The report, nearly a year in the making, was compiled by the Judge and his investigative team who had unfettered access to diocesan files, reviewing over 250,000 records, hundreds of thousands of individual documents, inspection of parish offices, files, and computers and interviews with key participants. It provides an independent and comprehensive accounting of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy along with the response of diocesan leadership since the inception of the diocese in 1953. It is available in its entirety on the diocesan website, (www.bridgeportdiocese.org) and includes an executive summary for the reader.

While this is a difficult day in the life of our Church, I hope and pray that it is also an historic step toward closure and reconciliation for all those affected by the crisis, particularly the victims and their families who have suffered so much. The report explores a deep wound in the life of our Church, one that has profoundly changed and challenged all of us. Yet there is reason for hope because so much work has already been done to create awareness, to protect our children and prevent future abuse.

I believe the publication of the report is a crucial step forward, among many other pastoral and administrative measures that the Diocese has taken over the last eighteen years, to ensure complete accountability and transparency in the handling of abuse and also to maintain the strongest Safe Environment policies to protect our children and young people.

Together with the Financial Accountability Report which was originally published in October 2018, this report continues our commitment to full and ongoing transparency in these matters. Furthermore, the first annual update of the Financial Accountability Report, expected to be released before December 31, 2019, will include a full accounting of the costs associated with the Judge’s Report.

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. My personal commitment is 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.

As we move forward, I wish to thank those survivors and family members who have joined our efforts to prevent this crime from ever happening again. Likewise, to our good and faithful priests, who represent the vast majority of those in ministry, I recognize the pain and challenges you face in this time of challenge and remain grateful for your support.

Finally, I wish to thank Judge Holzberg, who served as lead investigator and his team for their exhaustive work on this effort and their professionalism throughout the process.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that with the release of this historic report, we can come to terms with the sins of the past, move towards deeper reconciliation, continue to walk with our survivors on their journey of healing, and work together for the spiritual renewal of the diocese.

I ask for your prayers and support as we work together to renew our Diocesan Church.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport

Bishop Caggiano’s Statement on Abuse Crisis

OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the recent scandalous events regarding the crimes of sexual abuse against minors have come to light in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the earlier revelations regarding Archbishop McCarrick, I have been sick to my stomach. Words like horrifying, betrayal, and diabolical come to mind describing the evil abuse that was perpetrated against children, who were robbed of their innocence, and often of their faith and future. The failure of some bishops to report this evil is equally stunning and deeply sinful.

I believe that the Church is facing a moment of crisis that demands honesty and repentance from the bishops and decisive action to ensure that these failures will never happen again. The credibility of the bishops has been tarnished in the eyes of many, including many of our faithful. For some, it has even provoked a personal crisis of confidence in the Church itself, leading some to consider leaving their parishes. This is a wound that has been inflicted upon the Church that will not heal easily.

I invite you to join me to accompany one another during this time of sadness and anger and to strengthen one another in our Catholic faith. The strengthening of faith requires that the bishops of the Church acknowledge past failings among their brother bishops and hold everyone guilty accountable for their failures and crimes, whomever they may be.

The betrayal we feel concerning the cover-up of abuse pales in comparison to the suffering endured by the victims of sexual abuse—our sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, relatives and friends, who have been so deeply wounded and have struggled with the lifelong consequences of abuse. To those who suffered the evil of abuse, I wish to say that I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering that you have endured. I am sorry for the times that you came forward and were not heard. I am sorry for the silence of those who could have stopped what you endured. I am sorry that you were betrayed at the hands of those who were to serve as your fathers in faith.

We stand with you and will continue to accompany you with our prayers and resources to find healing and peace. We must make this a defining moment for all those who have suffered, by doing everything humanly possible to root out the sin of sexual abuse from our Church.

Over the past few days, I have read intently many of the concrete proposals that bishops and lay leaders have put forward to address the past failures in leadership and to strengthen the measures already in place ensuring that our children, young people and vulnerable adults are safe and can flourish in our midst. Some of the proposals are innovative and merit greater reflection. It is my hope and prayer that through honest dialogue and careful reflection, the Church’s clerical and lay leaders on every level can create a plan to bring purification and renewal to our Church.

Despite the raw emotions that we may be feeling during this difficult time, I would encourage us to resist the impulse to despair or dismiss the sacrificial work of so many good priests whom you have come to know in your life of faith. For our good priests are also suffering because of the sins of their brothers.

It is also important that we not lose sight of the tremendous protections now in place in our diocese and other dioceses across the country. For over fifteen years, our Safe Environment programs have been effective in preventing abuse, encouraging early reporting, and ensuring swift removal of perpetrators through the Diocesan Review Board. Contact information for our Safe Environment Office can be found on the diocesan website and in the back of the Church. In our Diocese, we have also established a Misconduct Review Board, composed principally of lay members, to review any allegations of adult misconduct on the part of clergy.

Perhaps we have never been so aware of our frailty. Yet, while this is a serious time of challenge and crisis in the Church, there is always hope. I don’t come to you with an easy solution to a complex evil, but I believe that if we move forward in the solidarity of faith, a spirit of transparency and commitment to absolute accountability, we will renew the Church.

My friends, I am praying for you and your families each day at Mass during this difficult time. Please pray for me and my brother priests as well.

May the great Mother of God, our protector and intercessor, accompany us as we move forward to purify and renew our Church.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano Bishop of Bridgeport

Bishop Caggiano Letter 8-18-18 ESPANOL[2].pdf

INSTRUCCIONES PARA DENUNCIAR 2018 sospecha de abuso (1)[3].pdf

Bishop Caggiano Statement on Rev. John Stronkowski

OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

June 15, 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with deep regret that I must inform you that I have placed Reverend John Stronkowski on administrative leave and have removed his faculties to exercise any and all forms of public ministry as a priest.

My decision was made after I determined, with the assistance of the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board, that there is credible evidence of an incident of abuse of a minor on the part of Father Stronkowski more than a decade ago. Upon first learning of this allegation in late September of last year, I immediately notified Father Stronkowski that the Diocese would fully investigate the information brought forward. I also informed him that, pending the outcome of the investigation, his priestly faculties and his ability to exercise any public ministry would continue to be suspended. For reasons not having anything to do with abuse of a minor, Father Stronkowski has been on a leave of absence from ministry since May, 2014.

In accordance with both state reporting mandates and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (commonly known as the Dallas Charter), we notified both the police and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) of the allegation. Given the limited information available and the amount of time which had passed, neither the police nor DCF took further action. As required by the Charter as well as our own policies, the Diocese then began a lengthy investigation into the allegation. As a result of this extensive and deliberative inquiry, which involved outside investigative resources and Diocesan advisers on such matters, the allegation was found to be credible. Significant supportive resources were made available to the victim throughout this confidential investigation. At the request of the victim and the victim’s family, we took every precaution to protect their privacy and we ask for continued respect of their privacy at this difficult time.

As a result of and in accordance with the Dallas Charter, Father Stronkowski is prohibited from any future ministry. Parish clergy and lay leadership where Father Stronkowski served were notified of my action in advance of this letter. We have taken steps to work with Father Stronkowski in this transition and provide him with support. In addition, Diocesan personnel are available through the Safe Environments Office as a resource to those affected. You should be aware that, other than this one reported incident, we have not received any other allegation of abuse of a minor by Father Stronkowski during his priestly assignments.

I realize that this is distressing news for the faithful and it further wounds the Diocese and our Church as a family of faith. I can only reassure you that we remain committed to a zero tolerance policy for child abuse and total transparency in the handling of cases.

I ask your prayers for all involved and pledge that we as a Diocese will continue to do everything in our power to fulfill the sacred obligation we share to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults in our community.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano Bishop of Bridgeport

Bishop Caggiano’s Statement on List of Accused Clerics

OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

November, 2014
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the “Charter”) requires, the Diocese of Bridgeport is re-promulgating its list of credibly accused clergy.

This list is published both ensure the ongoing protection of our children, youth and vulnerable adults and to assist in the healing of victims of clergy sexual abuse. In the interest of full transparency, we have included in this list both living and deceased clerics who were credibly accused of abuse or where the death of the cleric prevented further investigation of the alleged claims.

Both in keeping with the Charter’s provisions and out of a spirit of justice, I have not included in this list the names of those clerics who were both accused of sexual abuse and the allegation was found not to be credible. I have also not included in this list any cleric whose investigation has been impeded by judicial procedures outside of our control.

The sexual abuse of minors has created a great wound in the Church that must be healed through the Church’s credible and sustained efforts to ensure that all children, youth and vulnerable adults entrusted to its care are always kept safe and given the opportunity to grow in faith and love. To those victims who seek healing from the pain they have suffered, I offer my most sincere apology. I pray that with the Lord’s grace, you will feel the healing power of God and find peace and consolation in His Love. I also hope that the publication of this list will in some way help you and all the members of our Diocesan Church to find peace and assurance that we can move forward with confidence.

As the shepherd of the Diocese of Bridgeport, I take my responsibility to protect children very seriously and will continue to do everything that I can to implement our diocesan policies and procedures to ensure a safe environment for the most vulnerable in our midst.

Please be assured of my prayers as we continue down the road of recovery and healing with the strength of God’s love.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano Bishop of Bridgeport