Editorial Diocese probe could clear the air
Some may say it’s a bit late in the day for such a thing, but we praise Roman Catholic Bishop Frank Caggiano for naming a retired Connecticut Superior Court judge to move ahead with an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by priests in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Since the early 1990’s, the diocese has faced at least three dozen lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by men of the cloth. The diocese paid some $35 million in settlements.
Five more men sued the diocese last month, claiming priests abused them when they were children in the late 1980s to the early 2000s.
Caggiano said last month he was going to open an investigation and announced Wednesday he’d asked Robert Holzberg, of Middletown, a well regarded judge who retired in 2012, to investigate allegations and examine church records back to the founding of the diocese in 1953.
Holzberg is expected to begin his work immediately and be finished by next spring.
We hope his work throws open every stained-glass window, cathedral and basement door in the church in Fairfield County to rid them of any lingering odor of doubt and skepticism.
“My hope is that these measures will begin to heal the wounds that we feel and address the legitimate desire for real change that restores confidence in every level of leadership,” Caggiano said. “I believe that the Church is facing a moment of crisis that demands honesty and repentance from the bishops and decisive action to ensure that these failures will never happen again.”
Caggiano’s action comes in a growing effort by Roman Catholic dioceses around the country — and worldwide — to thoroughly investigate the insidious stain of clerical abuse of children.
The most notable probe to date occurred in Pennsylvania, where a grand jury report in August detailed decades of abuse and cover-ups involving allegations that more than 1,000 children were abused by some 300 priests.
And this week the Diocese of Cleveland became the fourth of six in Ohio to say it will publish a list of priests removed from their posts because of sexual abuse and misconduct allegations.
Caggiano’s decision to bring in a respected jurist is a good one. Priests investigating priests is a non-starter.
As written last month by Hearst Connecticut Media columnist John Breunig on a related matter, “A probe is never handled best from within, whether it involves schools, municipalities or police. The ideal investigator needs to be from outside the Church. Victims — and the many good priests out there — deserve a process the public can put faith in.”
We believe that a no-holds-barred investigation by Holzberg is a task that could go a long way toward restoring faith and confidence, and convincing victims and the more than 460,000 Catholics in the 82 parishes of the diocese that the practices of covering up, reassigning offending priests and other measures designed to protect priests are over and will never come into play again.