Wednesday, December 18, 2002

The NYTimes reports on the reactions of 3 CT parishes that lost their pastors this past weekend

In interviews today, parishioners at each church said it was difficult to believe that their pastor could be guilty. Still, the parishioners said, they were keenly aware of other abuse cases, especially some notorious cases in the Bridgeport Diocese.

"It's like a plane crashing into our house," said Judith Mastoloni, director of religious education at St. Paul Church. "We live close to the airport, but it could never happen to us."

Mrs. Mastoloni said it was hard to believe the charges. "I could almost swear there has never been anything in our parish," which serves 700 families in Greenwich and in towns across the New York border in Westchester, she said. "I am sure people would have come to me. I am not only the director of religious ed, but this is my parish. I know the parents. My grandchildren were in the program. My grandsons used to run through Father Al's house chasing a dog."

Nevertheless, Mrs. Mastoloni said, she thought the resignation was appropriate. "Guilty or not guilty, step aside," she said. "Let's get this straightened out."

......At St. Mary's in Ridgefield, parishioners said they supported Bishop Lori. "The bishop had to do what he had to do," said Joe Gulick, a member of the church for 30 years.

Maria LaRosa Smith said she had faith in Father Morrissey, the pastor since 1992. "We want our Father back," she said. "I think the person who made the accusations did so against three pastors from well-to-do parishes. He decided it was a good way to get income."

Other parishioners said they also suspected a financial motive. Mrs. Mastoloni of St. Paul said she was curious that one man had accused three different priests. The accuser is being represented by Tremont & Sheldon, a Bridgeport law firm that has represented many other victims of sex abuse by priests and negotiated a multimillion-dollar settlement last year in lawsuits involving 26 people and accusations against 5 priests.

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