Advocates For Abuse Victims Say Norwich Diocese Could Be Withholding Names Of More Abusers | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Advocates For Abuse Victims Say Norwich Diocese Could Be Withholding Names Of More Abusers

Feb 14, 2019

The Diocese of Norwich is being criticized for omitting names from a list of clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse.

On Monday, the Diocese released the names of 43 priests, deacons, and bishops known to have committed sexual assault against minors. But, an advocate for victims of abuse isn’t satisfied with the current level of transparency exhibited by the Diocese.

“We expect the Norwich Diocese to come clean: tell us about all of the abusers,” said Gail Howard.

Howard, the co-leader of the Connecticut chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, has revealed three names that weren’t listed.

“If we’re able to find records on these people, that is certainly something the church can do and they owe to their parishioners and to the citizens of Connecticut,” Howard said.

Howard’s reveal includes Fathers George St. Jean, a priest in 1960s at the Immaculate Retreat House in Willimantic, Joseph Owens, who worked in Middlefield from 1978 to 1979, and Kieran T. Ahearn, a priest who was at Middletown’s St. Pius X church in 1983 and 1984.  Both St. Jean and Ahearn are listed as deceased.

Michael Gabriele, Director of Communications for the Jesuits acknowledged the abuse claims against Owens, and gave this statement:

“He’s currently alive and living on a safety plan at a Jesuit community that is not associated with any Jesuit institutions.”

A recent report in The Day named six other people affiliated with the Diocese who also weren’t included in the list.

A spokesman for the Diocese told The Day that names could have been omitted for several reasons – the victim could have been an adult, the diocese might not have received a formal report of abuse, or maybe the allegation had yet to be substantiated.

Connecticut Public Radio reached out to the Diocese and received a written response.

“We are currently reviewing the information and will make updates to the list once confirmed,” said Wayne Gignac, a spokesman for the Diocese of Norwich.

Howard, the advocate for victims of abuse, is calling for Connecticut lawmakers to remove the statute of limitations on civil and criminal cases so that more abusers could be punished for sexually assaulting parish members. She’d also like an increased presence by civil authorities in matters related to sex abuse in the church.