Statement on Settlement of Lawsuits, March 2019

The Diocese of Bridgeport has settled five law suits filed in September 2018 for sexual abuse claims dating back almost 30 years.

Between December 2018 and February 2019, the Diocese participated in mediations to resolve these lawsuits together with a co-defendant in one case (the Maronite Order) and its insurer for four of the cases.

The Diocese resolved these cases through this mediation process and was able to cover the vast majority of the exposure through insurance proceeds. The total amount paid to the five victims for all the cases was $3.5 million.

It is our hope that these settlements bring a measure of healing and justice to victims, although we are fully aware that they can never be full compensated for their suffering and loss. The diocese also continues to work with victims/survivors through its survivor’s group, victims assistance coordinators, Mass of Hope and Healing, and other resources.

The two Diocesan priests involved in the settlements, Fr. Walter Coleman and Fr. Robert Morrissey are deceased. Both were previously accused of sexual abuse of minors and are named on the Diocesan list of Credibly Accused Priests. Walter Coleman was removed from ministry in 2002 and passed away in 2006. Robert Morrissey was removed from ministry in 2004 and died in 2014.

Fr. Larry Jensen was a Maronite priest who worked at a St. Anthony Maronite parish in Danbury (not a parish of the Diocese of Bridgeport) almost twenty years ago. He was removed permanently from ministry by the Maronites when the allegation came forward. The Maronites paid for that settlement, with the Diocese contributing a small amount, based on the fact that the priest was present in the Diocese during the time of the allegation.

On October 3, 2018 Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced that retired Connecticut Superior Court Judge Robert L. Holzberg, a partner in the law firm of Pullman and Comley LLC would serve as counsel and lead investigator for the Clerical Sexual Abuse Accountability Investigation now being conducted for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Judge Holzberg is overseeing a comprehensive analysis and review of claims of clerical sexual abuse of minors, the Diocese’s knowledge of such abuse and its response to allegations and information presented to it concerning the alleged clergy abuse. As part of his investigation, Judge Holzberg has been given complete and unrestricted access to all Diocesan files, records and archives dating from 1953, when the Diocese was founded, to the present, and the opportunity to interview Diocesan clergy and administrators with information relevant to his inquiry. His report is expected to be completed early this summer.

The diocese remains committed to complete transparency and accountability in response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis and to compassionate and just outreach for victims of clerical sexual abuse. In recent months the diocese has released a complete financial accounting of the cost of settlements, an updated list of credibly accused priests and a new “Pledge to Protect” website designed to make information on reporting, prevention, and overall response to the crisis both comprehensive and more readily available.