CT--Justices rule in favor of abuse victims
Connecticut’s top Catholic official has lost his bid to overturn a crucial state child safety law. Shame on him for trying.
Ex-Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell and current Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair asked Connecticut’s Supreme Court to gut a measure that gives victims of child molesters more time to expose and deter those who commit or conceal child sex crimes.
Supreme Court officials rebuffed his move. We are grateful. And we hope that hundreds more adults who were sexually violated as children in Connecticut will step forward, seek justice, and expose and prevent child sex crimes and cover ups.
This ruling is part of an encouraging pattern by judges in the US to make it easier for victims to use the courts to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded by exposing and punishing wrongdoers whose misdeeds hurt kids or enable others to hurt kids. It’s tragic that Hartford Catholic officials want to make it much harder for victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to protect children, inside and outside of the church.
The case before the Supreme Court centered on Fr. Ivan Ferguson and on a widely-praised 13 year old state law that gives victims more time to expose those who commit and conceal child sex crimes through civil litigation.
In 2002, Connecticut lawmakers extended the statute of limitations, letting child sex abuse victims to take legal action against their predators and employers who shield them until they turn 48 years of age. (Since 2002, lawmakers have extended it even further.)
Archbishop Leonard Blair - and his predecessor Archbishop Henry Mansell - claim that the statute was unconstitutional, based on the 'due process' clause of the state constitution.
Blair’s boss, Pope Francis, has said the church should 'make reparations” to victims and “All bishops must (exercise) the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors.'” But like most nice-sounding papal pronouncements about clergy sex crimes and cover ups, these sentiments are routinely ignored and contradicted by bishops like Blair.
In 2012, a jury found Hartford Archdiocese officials negligent and reckless in handling abuse reports against Fr. Ferguson and awarded a victim a $1.3 million judgment (which includes $300,000 in punitive damages). Fr. Ferguson admitted his crimes. But Blair also wants to overturn this verdict.
Fr. Ferguson has been accused before. In 1993, three men filed civil abuse and cover up lawsuits charging that they were molested by Fr. Ferguson in the1970s and that archdiocesan staff could and should have prevented the crimes.
Two were settled. In 2002, Ferguson was still a priest but had no ministerial or teaching duties. At least two cases against Ferguson were included in a 2005 $14 million settlement with Archdiocese involving 14 predator priests. At least five other cases against Fr. Ferguson have been filed since then.
From 1985 to 1993, Ferguson worked as a chaplain at Hartford Hospital. He is now deceased.
But the real issue here is Blair, not Ferguson. During his ten years as head of the Toledo Ohio diocese, Blair similarly – and callously - fought against statute of limitations reform there. There, he he had a terrible record on clergy sex abuse and cover up cases.
Here’s a “fact sheet” outlining some of the “most egregious” cases Blair oversaw while he was in Ohio.
Finally, we again urge Blair to post on his archdiocesan website the names, photos, whereabouts and work histories of the 33 publicly accused child molesting clerics who are or have been in the Hartford Archdiocese. Roughly 30 US bishops (including Bridgeport's) have done this. In our view, this is “the bare minimum” Catholic officials should do.
Since bishops recruited, educated, ordained, hired, trained and transferred thousands of predator priests, the least they can do – to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded- is disclose who and where these offenders are,.
The victim is represented by New Haven attorneys Tom McNamara (203 782 9241, [email protected]) and Hugh Hughes (203 683 1772). Over the past 22 years, McNamara has handled dozens of child sex abuse and cover up cases. The archdiocese is represented by John W. Sitarz (860 527 1141) and Wesley Horton (860 522 8338).
The victim is identified as Edward Doe in court papers. He is represented by New Haven attorney Tom McNamara (203 782 9241, [email protected]). Over the past 22 years, McNamara has handled dozens of child sex abuse and cover up cases. Fr. Mitchell is represented by Hartford attorney Hubert Santos (860 249 6548, [email protected]).
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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 )