The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, September 3, 2010
Accused Catholic priest denies child sex abuse, SNAP responds
Statement by Ann Webb, SNAP New England Regional Director, 617-513-8442
We’re sad that this predator priest refuses to admit his crimes. But we’re even sadder that Hartford’s archbishop refuses to act responsibly and compassionately in this case.
Bishops recruit, educate, ordain, hire, supervise and transfer priests. So when a priest is accused of molesting children, bishops have a moral and civic duty to find others who may have seen, suspected or suffered the cleric’s crimes. This is especially true in a case like this in which criminal charges may be possible.
Hartford’s archbishop should personally visit each parish where Bzdyra worked, begging victims and witnesses to call the police. He should use his diocesan website, staff and newspaper to do the same. And he should make strong, repeated pleas in his dozens of parish bulletins.
When victims and witnesses speak up, sometimes it results in justice, healing and prevention. When victims and witnesses stay silent, however, kids keep being molested and predators keep walking free. Hartford Catholic officials know this, yet refuse to take simple, inexpensive steps to protect the vulnerable or heal the wounded.
We are proud of and grateful to the wounded but strong and compassionate men who have reported Bzdyra’s crimes. Their courage publicly exposed a predator priest and may have prevented other vulnerable children from being victimized. They should feel good about what they have achieved by being brave enough to step forward and smart enough to take legal action. We hope his caring action will inspire others who were abused to come forward, get help, call police, expose predators, protect kids and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell,
Friday, September 3, 2010 3:14 AM EDT
Seymour priest denies sexually abusing boys
SEYMOUR — A priest accused of sexually abusing an altar boy during the 1980s has denied the charge, his attorney said Thursday.
A hearing took place Thursday in New Haven Superior Court in the case involving sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. Stephen Bzdyra, a local Roman Catholic priest.
Former Supreme Court Justice Robert I. Berdon presided over the court hearing for Bzdyra, who has been suspended from his role as pastor of St. Augustine Church, 35 Washington Ave. No ruling was issued.
William Dotson, 35, of New Haven, and another man, who lives in Watertown but has chosen not to reveal his identity, have accused Bzdyra of sexually abusing them.
Lawsuit: Conn. Priest Bribed Sexual Abuse Victim
A Connecticut man filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing a Roman Catholic pastor of sexually abusing him when he was a boy and trying to buy his silence with bribes — including appliances and a car — and threats to report his mother to welfare authorities.
Thirty-four-year-old William Dotson made the allegations against the Rev. Stephen Bzdyra (BIZ'-der-ah), pastor of St. Augustine Church in Seymour, in a lawsuit in New Haven Superior Court.
Bzdyra referred comment to the Archdiocese of Hartford. The Rev. John Gatzak, director of communications for the archdiocese, said he had no information about the lawsuit so he could not comment.
The Associated Press generally does not name victims of sexual assault, but Dotson's attorney, Joel Faxon, said Dotson wanted to come forward publicly with the allegations. A message was left with Faxon for Dotson.
Faxon said the case was unusual because it involves an active priest. Most recent cases involve allegations against priests already removed, he said.
The lawsuit alleges Bzdyra whipped and raped Dotson, an altar boy, after catechism class when he was 10 and molested him repeatedly in the rectory and church where Bzdyra served at the time. It accuses the priest of paying hush money, such as buying Dotson a washer and dryer and a car, and threatening to report Dotson's mother to the welfare department for having too many jobs if he revealed the abuse, saying he would be taken away from his family.
"Knowing that Mrs. Dotson was a hard-working, single mother, Bzdyra first infiltrated the family as a friend and father figure and then used their trust and faith against them to fulfill his own sick and twisted sexual desires," Faxon said in a statement.
Dotson turned to drugs and tried to kill himself as a result of the abuse, Faxon said. He has gone through therapy and is off drugs, his attorney said.
Dotson finally decided to come forward after the priest tried to befriend his son on Facebook, Faxon said.
The lawsuit, which seeks damages of more than $15,000, names Bzdyra and the archdiocese. It says church officials failed to prevent the abuse.
Faxon said Dotson will likely file a criminal complaint against Bzdyra, but he's researching whether a statue of limitations has expired.
Mario Dirienzo, a deacon at the church, said he did not believe the allegations against Bzdyra.
"Father is above board," Dirienzo said. "He has an excellent reputation."
Faxon said Bzdyra is also listed on a Boy Scout web page as the Catholic Committee chaplain. Anthony Vogl, marketing director of the Connecticut Yankee Council, the local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, said the website is outdated and a different priest is the chaplain. He said the archdiocese appoints the position and he doesn't believe the chaplain would have contact with scouts.
Bzdyra is also the subject of a lawsuit by a principal who says he fired her in 2004 after she refused to retaliate against a female student who had complained that the priest had made sexual remarks during a class. Henry Murray, attorney for the principal, Patricia Dayner, said Bzdyra wanted the principal to call the Connecticut Department of Children and Families concerning one of the students who complained about him.
Dayner's lawsuit is pending before the Connecticut Supreme Court after church officials lost an effort to have it dismissed.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests