Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Speak Out Against Hartford’s Archbishop

By Mike Krafcik

September 18, 2014

HARTFORD– An organization made up of people who were abused by priests spoke out in the capital city today.

They gathered because of unrest over recent actions of Hartford’s Catholic Archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Hartford is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a verdict for a man who claimed he was abused by Ivan Ferguson, a Roman Catholic priest, at a school in Derby in the early 1980s.

In 2012, a jury found Hartford Archdiocese officials negligent and reckless in handling abuse reports against Ferguson and awarded the victim a $1 million judgment.

Among other claims in a recently filed motion, the archdiocese contends the law that extended the statute of limitations for such lawsuits is unconstitutional.

It’s a move that has set off a fire storm, especially with victims of clergy sex abuse.

On Thursday, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests spoke out in Hartford.

The members are protesting Archbishop Leonard Blair’s decision to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s statute of limitation for sexual abuse reporting passed in 2002, which allows victims up to the age of 48 to take legal action against their predators.

“I think it’s disgraceful the archbishop is trying to overturn the statute–he’s denying the ability to give victims the justice that they deserve and need,” said Jim Hackett, a SNAP member who was part of a $14 million settlement in 2005 against 14 priests in the Hartford Archdiocese accused of sexual abuse.

A state Supreme Court hearing of this motion has been scheduled for Sept. 22.  The case is referred to as Archdiocese of Hartford vs Jacob Doe.

“If you’re an arch bishop, you’re a priest, you’re supposed to be living the gospel, and this is not gospel living,” said Jayne O’Donnell with Voice of the Faithful.

Voice of The Faithful is a Catholic reform organization formed after the Boston church sex abuse scandal in 2002 to support survivors of abuse and help initiate reform within the church.

“What they want to do is continue to protect the assets of the church, not the victims, not the survivors,” said O’Donnell.

Archbishop Blair came to Hartford in 2013 after serving for 10 years as archbishop in Toledo, Ohio. During that time he lobbied strongly against a bill in the Ohio state legislature extending the time limits for filing lawsuits.

Toledo resident Claudia Verecellotti traveled to Hartford for today’s protest.

“My fear is all Connecticut crime victims of violent sex crimes will end up like Ohio victims, with no access to the truth,” said Verecellotti.

In July Pope Francis told victims of Catholic Church sexual abuse that the church must make reparations for what it did to victims.

Many believe believe Archbishop Blair’s decision contradicts the pope’s message.

“The CEO of a company would have to call someone out on that and hold someone accountable,” said Beth McCabe with SNAP.

FOX CT contacted the Archdiocese of Hartford for this story. We were told by the spokesperson the organization has a policy of not commenting on matters of pending litigation.

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