CT--Victims: “Priest should give passport to bishop”
For immediate release: Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015
We’re disappointed that a predator priest has pled guilty to lesser charges but hope he’s found guilty and harshly punished next month on other charges. And we hope his bishop will insist that the priest turn over his passport so he can’t flee the country.
Earlier this week, we learned of yet another case (and there have been dozens, if not hundreds like this) in which a Catholic priest who abused a child fled overseas.
According to the Hartford Courant, “a series of pretrial rulings on excluding evidence by Hartford Superior Court Judge Juliett L. Crawford eviscerated the state's case against the Fr. Paul Gotta.” That’s heartbreaking. It’s tragic each time a child molester exploits legal technicalities to evade justice. Our hearts ache for this courageous victim who exposed this dangerous priest.
It’s sad that a few jurors apparently question this brave victim’s motives just because he’s filed a civil lawsuit. Often, child sex abuse victims desperately want to warn families about a predator and a civil lawsuit is the quickest way to do this. And often, victims who were hurt by authority figures (like priests) in an institution (like the church) are less inclined to trust another authority figure (like an officer) in another institution (the police department).
No victim of sexual violence should ever be criticized for using the courts to expose a predator.
Now, the burden of keeping kids safe from Fr. Gotta falls to Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair. Blair should insist that Fr. Gotta turn over his passport to him. That would ensure that Fr. Gotta doesn’t flee the US.
Fr. Gotta could of course refuse. But he has taken a vow of obedience to church authorities. And Blair has essentially vowed to put the well-being of children first. So we believe it is Blair’s duty to insist he give up his passport.
We also believe it is Blair’s duty to do everything he possibly can to help find anyone with information about these allegations and urge them to contact law enforcement. He has a diocesan newspaper, website and dozens of church bulletins that could be used to reach out to anyone who was harmed by Fr. Gotta. He should strongly urge anyone who has seen or suspected these crimes to contact law enforcement.
Blair has a chance to send a very strong message to any child who is being molested or has been molested. By actively helping with police, by asking for Fr. Gotta’s passport, by imploring anyone with knowledge of these crimes to report to police and not church officials, by begging victims to come forward, he could give hope to victims and show them that they have done nothing wrong.
But Blair’s silence and inaction tells victims that the church will protect guilty clerics, not innocent kids and wounded victims.
Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano should also take these steps, since Fr. Gotta has been living in his diocese recently.
(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)
Sex Charges Dropped Against East Windsor Priest
David Owens, Hartford Courant
HARTFORD — A prosecutor on Wednesday dropped the most serious charges against a Catholic priest who had been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager, resulting in a six-month suspended sentence on a lesser charge.
A series of pretrial rulings on excluding evidence by Hartford Superior Court Judge Juliett L. Crawford eviscerated the state's case against the Rev. Paul Gotta, prompting prosecutor Debra Collins to offer . . .