Diocese launches investigation of clerical sex abuse of minors

Judge Robert Holzberg will lead review of allegations and response

A retired judge who is not a Catholic will lead an investigation of sexual abuse of minors by clergy throughout the 65-year history of the Diocese of Bridgeport at the request of Bishop of Bridgeport Frank J. Caggiano.

Judge Robert Holzberg will serve as counsel and lead investigator for a “clerical sexual abuse accountability investigation” commissioned by the bishop.

“Judge Holzberg epitomizes long-term, dedicated and conscientious service to the community,”

Bishop Caggiano said in an Oct. 3 announcement of the investigation.

“He possesses the highest integrity, and he has made substantial contributions to the administration of justice in Connecticut. We are grateful that he has agreed to lead this significant review.”

Holzberg will lead a team of attorneys and investigators in a “comprehensive analysis and review of claims of clerical sexual abuse of minors, the diocese’s knowledge of such abuse and its response to allegations and information presented to it concerning the alleged clergy abuse,” said the announcement from the diocese.

Holzberg and his team will have “complete and unrestricted access to all diocesan files, records and archives dating from 1953, when the diocese was founded, to the present, and the opportunity to interview diocesan clergy and administrators with information relevant to his inquiry,” the diocese said.

Judge, mediator

Judge Holzberg, a Middletown resident, retired from the bench in September 2012 after more than 22 years as a Superior Court judge.

Holzberg leads the “alternative dispute resolution practice” at the law firm Pullman & Comley, LLC. He has been a mediator and arbitrator for both state and federal courts in a wide range of disputes, including personal injury, employment, construction, environmental, probate, insurance, intellectual property and commercial disputes.

Holzberg successfully mediated claims against St. Francis Hospital in Hartford involving allegations of decades-long sexual abuse of minors by a hospital employee. In 2014, Holzberg was retained by the Stamford corporation counsel to lead an investigation into allegations that a Stamford Board of Education high school teacher was involved in a sexual relationship with her student.

“I am committed to supervising a comprehensive, impartial and transparent investigation into clergy sexual abuse of minors and the diocese’s response to that abuse over the past 65 years,” Holzberg said.

“As a condition of taking on this assignment, I met with and obtained the commitment of Bishop Caggiano that I will have full and unlimited access to all materials relevant to this investigation and that I will have full discretion to conduct this investigation as I deem appropriate. Bishop Caggiano pledged his full cooperation and commitment to this important initiative.” Holzberg said.

The bishop’s announcement noted that Pullman & Comley has not previously represented the diocese.

The accountability investigation is expected to be completed by spring 2019.

Results of the investigation will be presented in a public report addressing sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Diocese of Bridgeport, and church leadership’s response to that abuse. The report will also contain recommendations to the bishop.

Local support

Pastors of Ridgefield’s two Roman Catholic parishes, St. Mary and St. Elizabeth Seton, were asked by The Press for their reaction to the bishop’s announcement, and whether they’d gotten any response from parishioners.

Only Msgr. Laurence Brokiewicz of St. Mary Parish responded in time for publication.

I fully support the Diocesan decision to undertake a sexual abuse accountability investigation with the assistance of the Pullman & Comley law firm,” he said. “Very few of our parishioners have shared their reactions with me, but those who have are also very supportive.”

Bishop Caggiano first announced plans to have an accountability investigation on Sept. 7 in response to what the diocese described as “the national clerical sexual abuse crisis and failures of Church leadership in accountability and transparency.”

The bishop’s letter was read in parishes throughout the diocese and distributed through the diocesan newspaper, website, and social media.

Bishop Caggiano also outlined spiritual and administrative actions that the diocese will take to ensure transparency and accountability.

Financial report

The bishop also committed to presenting a financial report on settlement amounts for past claims of clergy sexual abuse of minors from the establishment of the diocese to date. The report will include sources from which funds were obtained to settle claims and provide an account of the financial support currently given to any priest who has been accused of sexual abuse of a minor and who is currently on administrative leave or has been laicized.

The report is expected to be released on Oct. 31.

“These measures also build upon the extensive work we have done since 2002 to reach out to and support survivors of clergy sexual abuse in addition to providing the training and safeguards to protect our children and ensure that adults recognize the warning signs of any potential abuse,” Bishop 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.”  

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