A Roman Catholic priest who admitted to church authorities that he had sexual encounters with teenage boys was not suspended until nearly 30 years later, it was disclosed in federal court Tuesday.
Bridgeport Bishop Edward M. Egan suspended Laurence F.X. Brett's right to serve as a priest in 1993, after the diocese was told of a pending lawsuit against it.
A jury trial on that lawsuit began Monday in U.S. District Court.
Frank Martinelli, 49, of Milwaukee, Wis., says he was sexually abused three times by Brett in 1962 and 1963 when he was a student at Stamford Catholic High School. He accuses the diocese of negligence and "fraudulent concealment" of Brett's sexual abuses.
A 1993 letter from Egan to Brett was put into evidence Tuesday. The bishop wrote Brett that "you are not to function as a priest or represent yourself as a priest" and that the diocese was severing all "ministry, agency or employment."
The diocese sent Brett for psychiatric treatment to a rehabilitation center in Jimenez, N.M., in late 1964. That was after officials said they learned Brett had a sexual encounter with a student at Sacred Heart University, where he was a chaplain.
Church officials were directed to cover for his absence, according to a 1964 diocesan document that was entered into evidence. It said "a recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned should anyone ask."
William Laviano, attorney for the plaintiff, says that by sending Brett to another state, "the purpose of the diocese was to avoid legal liability." The diocese says the purpose was to rehabilitate the priest.
Brett never returned to work in the Bridgeport diocese, but he was not stripped of his rights to function as a priest until Egan's 1993 letter. The letter was written after Brett refused Egan's request to petition the pope to be dispensed of his priestly vows and made a layman, diocesan attorney Joseph Sweeney said.
Brett underwent treatment and worked in a couple of parishes in New Mexico, and was in Sacramento, Calif., on occasion, Sweeney said. Sweeney said the diocese did not know until sometime in 1992 or 1993 that Brett had worked for several years teaching at Calvert Hall, a Christian Brothers high school in Baltimore. That was from about 1969 to 1972, Sweeney said. Brett then worked for about 20 years as a writer for a private religious periodical in Baltimore called Spread the Word. It was unclear whether he was identifying himself as a priest in his position.
Brett disappeared in 1993 and cannot be found, Sweeney said.
Monsignor Laurence R. Bronkiewicz, who is in charge of clergy personnel in the Bridgeport diocese, spent his second day on the witness stand answering questions from the plaintiff's attorney.
Judge Janet Bond Arterton recessed the trial until Thursday.