BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – A prosecutor investigating whether the Diocese of Bridgeport didn't report possible child abuse said the statute of limitations has likely run out on the alleged cases, which took place in the 1980s.
State's attorney Jonathan Benedict said his office is investigating whether the Roman Catholic diocese complied with a state law requiring such disclosures.
"We're taking a look at it," Benedict said Monday. But he said it appeared the statute of limitations has likely expired on any failures to report.
Benedict said his office was not investigating Cardinal Edward Egan, now head of the New York Archdiocese, who served as bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 until 2000.
The Hartford Courant reported Sunday that sealed court documents indicate Egan allowed several priests facing allegations of sexual abuse to continue working for years while he was Bridgeport bishop. The newspaper said the documents indicate Egan failed to aggressively investigate some abuse allegations and did not refer complaints to criminal authorities.
Clergy are among those required to report suspected child abuse under a law that dates to 1971, Benedict said.
"We have always complied with the mandate," said Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the Bridgeport diocese. "We have always complied with the authorities and will continue to do so."
Benedict and other prosecutors said they will not pursue sexual abuse allegations against priests made decades ago, the Connecticut Post and the Courant reported.
But state's attorney James Thomas told the Courant he will ask Hartford Archbishop Daniel Cronin for information on sexual abuse cases that fall within the five-year prosecution deadline. It would be the first such request of the Roman Catholic Church by a Connecticut prosecutor.
Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori said last week the diocese is examining the records of all clergy for any signs of sexual misconduct and is creating an advisory board to deal with the issue.
"At this point, I can say that, to the best of my knowledge, there are no priests or deacons of the Diocese of Bridgeport in active ministry who pose any threat of committing sexual misconduct with a minor," Lori said then.
Lawyer Jason Tremont, whose firm reached a settlement with abuse victims in the diocese last year, called on Lori to release to authorities and the public the names of all clergy who have been the subject of sexual abuse complaints with minors.
"They have to open up everything because we do know there has been a cover-up," Tremont said. "In order to have credibility in dealing with future claims, they have to go through their complaints and come clean with everything."
Tremont's law firm reached a settlement involving 26 people who said they were abused by six priests. Additional people also made accusations, but some did not want to file formal complaints or a statute of limitations had expired, Tremont said.
McAleer said the names of all priests involved in the settlement were made public, but said he could not comment on past litigation.
"I don't think anybody could say the diocese of Bridgeport does not take the issue of sexual abuse seriously," McAleer said.
In New York, meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau urged Egan to report all child molestation allegations occurring in the archdiocese over the past few years.
"I would expect the Archdiocese of New York to make available to my office all allegations of child abuse, including any past allegations involving priests where the priest is still active or has retired in the last several years," Morgenthau said.