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Jesuits’ list did not reveal accused priest who served in Norwich Diocese

January 23, 2019

A third Jesuit priest “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting minors, served for years in the Norwich Diocese.

But when the USA Northeast Jesuit Province released a list last week of 50 Northeast priests “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting minors since 1950, the Rev. Eugene Orteneau was not listed as serving at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Storrs. In 2007, the Norwich Diocese agreed to pay 1.2 million settlement — the Jesuits paid the remainder — to Joshua Heathcote of Coventry, who claimed Orteneau repeatedly molested him at St. Thomas Aquinas beginning when he 16.

Instead, the Jesuits only listed Orteneau as serving at Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, Mass., from 1976 to ’78 and at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, from 1978 to ’79.

Rev. Robert Pecoraro, the president of Cheverus, posted a message on the school website last week saying Orteneau was among seven accused priests who served at the school. He wrote that Orteneau was accused of sexual assaulting a minor during the time frame of 1992 to ’95.

Orteneau was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas in 1990. When the Jesuits made him leave St. Thomas Aquinas in 1994, the religious order refused to say why it was moving Orteneau, who was supported by parishioners. One of Orteneau’s superiors said at the time he could not reveal why Orteneau was being moved, telling the Hartford Courant that “it was a matter between two priests.”

Although Heathcote would not file his lawsuit until 2005, his attorney, Robert Reardon of New London, told the Journal Inquirer newspaper in 2007 that when Orteneau was at St. Thomas Aquinas, a Jesuit interviewed children there about possible improper sexual contact with him.

According to the Jesuit list, Orteneau left the Jesuit order in 2003 and died in North Carolina in 2009 at the age of 57. According to Bishopaccountability.org, the website that acts as a clearinghouse for information about accused priests, Jesuit directories show that Orteneau was assigned from 1994 to 2003 to the Jesuit provincial office in Boston.

The Jesuits’ Director of Communication Mike Gabriele did not respond to questions from The Day about the error in its reporting of where Orteneau served.

Two other Jesuit priests who once served in southeastern Connecticut were included on the list released last week.

The late Rev. Francis J. McManus served at Saint Bernard High School in Montville from 1982 to ’83 and Saints Peter and Paul Church in Norwich from 1983 to ‘91. The list states McManus was accused of “multiple abuse” from 1974 to ‘85, some of which time he spent at Saint Bernard and Saints Peter and Paul. The incidents were reported from 2002 to ’05. He died in 2015.

The Jesuits’ list does not offer any details about the sexual assaults McManus was accused of but said they were deemed “credible after investigation.” The allegations against him in Boston had been reported by the Boston Globe in 2002, but incidents during the time he served in Norwich and Montville were not publicly known before the release of the list on Tuesday.

The Jesuits and the Norwich Diocese did not respond to requests for more details about the allegations against McManus in the Norwich Diocese.

Also on the Jesuits’ list was the late Rev. William Cullen, who was assigned to St. Thomas More School in Oakdale from 2000 to ’05. The “abuse of minor” he is accused of occurred from 1995 to ’96, when he was assigned to a school in Boston. The allegation was reported in 2016 and determined to be “credible after investigation.” Cullen died in 2010.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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