Alleged victims of the Rev. Laurence F.X. Brett said Thursday that they felt newly betrayed at the news that, while police and plaintiffs' lawyers searched for the admitted sex-abuser without success, a handful of friends from Brett's days as a Bridgeport priest knew he was secretly living on a Caribbean island.
They and prosecutors signaled renewed interest in pressing criminal charges, and an attorney representing five men Brett allegedly molested in the 1960s said she would ask prosecutors whether the priest could be charged and extradited to Connecticut for prosecution.
``I certainly would love to see this guy in prison,'' said attorney Jennifer Laviano, reacting to news that The Courant last week found Brett living on St. Maarten.
Laviano also wants an investigation of Bridgeport diocese officials who testified during a 1997 lawsuit brought by former altar boy Frank Martinelli that they had no knowledge of Brett's whereabouts.
``Believe me, if we find out there was any knowledge of where he was, I will see to it there are consequences,'' said Laviano.
The Courantfound that, while on St. Maarten, Brett maintained contact with at least one, and possibly two, Bridgeport diocese priests, as well as laypersons in Baltimore. Bridgeport Bishop William Lori said Wednesday that he is now investigating the two priests -- including one who, according to Brett's former neighbors, visited him on the island as recently as January.
Church spokesmen insist that the Bridgeport and Baltimore dioceses have had no official contact with Brett since he vanished in 1993, and did not know where he was until The Courant told them Wednesday that it had located him.
But the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association, part of an order of Catholic priests in Washington, D.C., confirmed Thursday that it supported Brett financially by paying him as a contract writer while he was living on the island.
The Rev. Kenneth Boyack, president of the association, said that the organization was unaware that the author of its popular Bible study magazine, Share the Word, had been accused of molesting children in Connecticut, New Mexico, California and Maryland. According to Boyack, the Paulists terminated Brett's contract on Aug. 19, 1997, four days after reading a newspaper article about Martinelli's lawsuit against Brett.
``We were shocked when we read the details of what he'd done,'' Boyack said. ``We've had no contact with him since that time.''
He said they considered it merely ``unusual'' when Brett abruptly left Baltimore in 1993 and directed them to send his checks to a post office box in Miami. Boyack said that in 1993, the same year the Bridgeport diocese suspended Brett, Brett told the Paulists only that he was leaving the priesthood. He did not explain why, Boyack said, and they didn't ask.
``Obviously it was unusual, but we didn't know what the situation was,'' he said. ``We really didn't talk about his personal life.''
The Paulists were eager to keep Brett as a contract writer because he was producing ``brilliant'' work, he said: ``Very few people have the ability he had for original commentary and clarity of thought.''
For Brett's many accusers, distinctions about precisely who in the church knew of Brett's whereabouts seem beside the point.
``It's ludicrous that this man is still running around and the Catholic Church is hiding him,'' said Frank Mercaldo, who says Brett abused him as a high school student in Baltimore.
But even as some of Brett's accusers in Connecticut and Maryland said they would renew their efforts to have the priest charged criminally, prospects for criminal charges appear dim.
The Connecticut cases stretch back nearly four decades -- apparently beyond the statute of limitations -- and Baltimore prosecutor John Cox said no case older than July 1974 could be prosecuted there, for the same reason. Neither Cox nor the Baltimore Archdiocese could definitively say Thursday whether they had a complaint on or after that date.
``We've got so much to look at now,'' said Cox, who heads the Baltimore County state's attorney's sex assault unit.
Still, Chicago resident Anthony Cardone, who was part of a group of boys Brett allegedly molested in the early 1960s, said he was furious that the priest was being supported after he vanished from Baltimore in 1993.
``I am outraged he was aided and abetted by these people,'' Cardone said. ``It's a slap-in-the-facebetrayal.''
He said he wants Brett extradited to the United States and ``brought to justice.''
``I want to see him behind bars,'' Cardone said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times