Ex-judge to lead diocese’s investigation of priest abuse
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut announced Wednesday that it has chosen a retired state judge to lead an investigation into sexual abuse of children by priests, a review that will look at allegations and church records dating back to when the diocese was founded in 1953.
Robert Holzberg, who retired as a state Superior Court judge in 2012 and returned to private law practice, will be lead investigator and counsel for the Diocese of Bridgeport’s investigation, which church officials say will begin immediately and be finished next spring.
The diocese, which includes more than 460,000 Catholics in 82 parishes in Fairfield County, has faced at least three dozen lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by priests since the early 1990s, leading to more than $35 million in settlements, the Connecticut Post has reported. Five more men sued the diocese last month, saying priests abused them when they were children in the late 1980s to the early 2000s.
Twenty-nine priests in the diocese — living and dead — have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, according to the diocese.
Bishop Frank Caggiano revealed last month that the diocese would launch an investigation. The announcement came amid continuing sex abuse scandals in the church worldwide, including a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that detailed decades of abuse and cover-ups involving allegations that more than 1,000 children were abused by about 300 priests.
“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.”
The investigation will review and analyze claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, diocese officials’ knowledge of abuse and their response to allegations. Church officials say Holzberg will have unrestricted access to all diocesan files dating back 65 years.
Holzberg said in a statement that he made full access to church files a condition of his leading the investigation.
Also 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.