BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Connecticut priest has lambasted the findings of a sex abuse report released by the Bridgeport, Connecticut, diocese via a blanket email on Wednesday that has reportedly put "the entire diocese up in flames."
Monsignor Laurence Bronkiewicz has taken issue with being cited in the report for actively participating in hiding clergy sexual abuse. Bronkiewicz claims he was "thrown under the bus" and has demanded an apology from Bridgeport Bp. Frank Caggiano.
Bronkiewicz has also demanded an apology from the legal team who put the report together. He said in the email, "When I left their law offices I suspected that they had probably already written the document, were not terribly interested in what I had to say and were meeting with me as a pro forma exercise."
"My good name and reputation which has taken me a lifetime to build with God's help" was attacked, according to the monsignor, who referred to himself as a "living Caggiano abuse victim." The latter is a reference to deceased prelates cited in the report for covering up sex abuse.
Bronkiewicz rhetorically asked if it was unreasonable for him to expect to have been notified in advance that he would be cited in the report (11 times). He took issue with having no chance to react to it before its release, particularly given the diocesan posts he has held — "Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, Chancellor and Diocesan Administrator."
The former vicar general also objected to not being asked about the material referring to him during his 3.5-hour interview with the Holzberg legal team. He expressed particular concern about how the report framed his involvement in the "Castaldo and the Federico cases."
For the former, Bronkiewicz claimed he was falsely accused of not being concerned about it, and for the latter, he denied refusing, or threatening to destroy, a letter of complaint.
He says the report runs counter to the bishop's self-claimed qualities of "truthfulness" and "transparency," so much so it should be called "Caggiano Report" not the Holzberg Report, according to the monsignor.
The diocese of Bridgeport did not issue an apology to Bronkiewicz but issued a statement on the diocesan website on Wednesday. Speaking for the bishop in third person, it reads in part, "The Bishop regrets Msgr. Bronkiewicz's words, which will further wound victims of abuse and all those who have demanded a truthful and comprehensive account of the abuse crisis in the diocese."
Diocesan Statement On Msgr. Bronkiewicz Letter https://t.co/1YMelLoebG— Diocese of Bridgeport (@Diobpt) October 16, 2019
"The diocese stands by the October 1 Accountability Report after a year of independent investigation by Judge Robert Holzberg. The bishop has publicly accepted its conclusions and pledged to follow through on the Judge's recommendations to further protect children and strengthen its Safe Environments program," reads the statement confirming its allegiance to the report.
It is not known whether the Holzberg legal team has issued an apology to Bronkiewicz.
The report is named after retired Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg who compiled it and released the results of the nearly yearlong investigation into the handling of abuse on Oct. 1. The investigation covered the approximately 66 years from the establishment of the diocese to the present.
The Bridgeport diocese has been the site of the sexual abuse of hundreds of victims by clergy since the early 1950s.
The blame for the covering up of the abuse by violating state law, destroying records or outright ignoring or inadequately responding to the abuse has been visited on former — and now deceased — bishops Edward Egan and Walter Curtis
The blame has also been hoisted on Bronkiewicz, Egan's right-hand man, by the report.
The report found 281 victims allegedly abused by 71 priests — about 5% of the total number of priests that have served in the diocese. More than $56 million was reportedly paid to victims in legal settlements.
The report literarily describes "a tale of two cities," to contrast Egan's tenure of cover-up with Bps. William Lori's and Frank Caggiano's tenure of "persistent, meaningful efforts" that restore "stability, trust, and faith in the diocese."
Monsignor Bronkiewicz's complete email is below:
Bishop Caggiano and Mrs. McCrory:
On October 1, at a Bridgeport press conference, you announced the release of a Report prepared by a local law firm but which was bought, paid for and approved by you, with the assistance of Mrs. Ann McCrory, your legal counsel. In the interest of truth and the transparency you've always claimed for yourself, please stop calling it the Holzberg Report. It is the Caggiano Report.
Now, normally people have to wait until after death to be canonized, but you and the current Archbishop of Baltimore found a way to attain saintly status right here and now, and I'm far from being alone among God’s People to have noticed that. Unfortunately the Caggiano Report and your press conference accomplished their objective by "throwing me under the bus" as the saying goes, and "me" includes my good name and reputation which has taken me a lifetime to build with God's help. All of your Report's other victims (who are not among the credibly accused) are your dead episcopal predecessors and my own deceased predecessor as Vicar for Clergy. Perhaps you didn't notice, but they were already dead - you did not have to drive the bus over them and their reputations, and what you did to them has not registered on the applause meter! As for this living Caggiano abuse victim (and you'll notice I'm copying Ms. Erin Neil, your victim outreach coordinator), I decided not to walk quietly into the night after October 1, and with the Holy Spirit's guidance I found the strength to compose this email.
Allow me now to offer some additional comments -
- Until the afternoon of September 30, neither you nor Mrs. McCrory ever told me that my name would appear in the Caggiano Report. When she did call in the late afternoon, she rather nervously indicated that I appear in 3 or 4 places, but as I soon discovered, it's actually 11 places (pp. 4, 40, 57, 58, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, and 70). Given the Diocesan posts I've held, including Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, Chancellor and Diocesan Administrator, is it unreasonable of me to have expected to to be informed that I am in the Report, how many times, and to have been given the opportunity to read it and react to it before its release? People I've spoken with think it would have been quite reasonable.
- to the best of my recollection, during my 3.5 hour interview with the Holzberg Team, at no point did Holzberg or the other lawyer ask me about the material referring to me in the Report. Frankly I find that highly unprofessional especially in light of the Report's cost. If I'm mistaken and they did, I would insist on seeing their notes. Furthermore never did I receive any documents or questions prior to the interview to help me prepare for it. Bear in mind that my Diocesan work with these cases, from 1986-2002, was not exactly recent. I am also particularly concerned about 2 of your Report’s references to me:
- p. 67 - Had I been asked about Castaldo, I would have answered that my very serious concern about him never disappeared, but why was the person who mistakenly claimed that I wasn't concerned never identified ?
- p. 68 - Had I been asked about that Federici case, I would have clearly denied making that statement to the mother of the young boy, nor did I ever say to her or any other alleged victim or relative that I would refuse a letter or that a complaint would not be kept but destroyed
- my disappointment in the unprofessional process used by the Holzberg Team with respect to me goes deep, and when I left their law offices I suspected that they had probably already written the document, were not terribly interested in what I had to say and were meeting with me as a pro forma exercise.
While you can never undo the impact that the Caggiano Report and the surrounding media coverage have had on my life and will continue to have, I think you, Mrs. McCrory and the Holzberg Team can try. Here are my two reasonable requests:
1. a letter of apology from you to me which would would appear in the Fairfield County Catholic and on our Diocesan Website and would be distributed to every Parish and Diocesan institution; as you can undoubtedly imagine I am particularly concerned about my former Parish in Ridgefield as well as Saint Thomas More, Darien, where I've been helping out
2. a letter of apology from the Holzberg Team, who were/are employed by you, for their unprofessional interview of me which, as I said, did not touch upon any of the 11 references to me in your Report.
Since, unlike yourself, I do not have the benefit of calling a press conference to help restore my good name to the extent possible, I will be forwarding this letter to many friends and others and hope that you will feel free to distribute it to your Secret Clergy Abuse Advisory Board (another example of your transparency?) as well as your so-called Healing Committee, and any other person or persons.
In closing my I express the very serious hope that you will never do to another priest, deacon or layperson in this or any other Diocese what you have done to me.
Msgr. Larry Bronkiewicz, Ordained July 2, 1973 and still serving God's People