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Priest Admits Conduct Probed
The Rev. Edward Moran told parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle Church Saturday that in 1996 a woman accused him of improper contact years earlier, but that he was cleared after an investigation by the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Moran said in an interview Saturday night that the woman alleged the incident occurred in 1980 when she was 7 or 8 and he was a priest at St. Brigid Church in the Elmwood section of town. The girl's family attended the church. He said he reacted with "sadness and shock" when an attorney contacted the archdiocese in 1996.
"I felt that in the present situation, it's good for people to hear this from me," he said in an interview Saturday night. "There is nothing to hide," he said. "I am innocent."
Moran disclosed the allegation in a brief statement to parishoners during the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday and will repeat it at four services today.
In another development, State's Attorney James Thomas said the state won't prosecute a North Branford priest accused of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred 30 years ago because the statute of limitations has expired.
Thomas said he reviewed a new law addressing the statute of limitations in such cases, but concluded that the case is too old.
The Rev. Daniel McSheffery, longtime pastor of St. Augustine Church in North Branford, was placed on administrative leave in May following allegations of sexual abuse that the complainant said occurred while the priest was associate pastor of St. Augustine Church in Hartford.
Moran said he cooperated with a "full and complete" investigation by the archdiocese in 1996. He said he does not know whether the allegation was referred to police, but there was no lawsuit or financial settlement and he has not heard anything about it since then.
Moran said he began thinking about revealing the accusation about a month ago. Although he discussed the idea with several people - who encouraged him to make a public statement - he said he did not notify the archdiocese of his comments.
"Let's deal with everything honestly and openly," Moran said. "We've got to be able to talk about these things."
Moran has been an assistant pastor at St. Thomas for about 10 years and teaches religion classes at Northwest Catholic High School.
Concerning the McSheffery case, the law extends the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of child sex abuse cases. Previously, people couldn't file complaints after they reached age 20; the new law extends that limit to age 48.
But the criminal extension only applies to future offenses, not past ones. The new law also extends the statute of limitations for people to file civil actions alleging child sex abuse, giving them until they reach age 48 to file lawsuits.
This provision is retroactive, meaning it applies to offenses that occurred prior to the law's approval, as well as future offenses.
Officials have not released the current age of the complainant against McSheffery.
As of Friday, McSheffery was not named in any civil cases, according to the state of Connecticut Judicial Department's Web site.
Vincent Candelora, a North Branford resident and vice chairman of the St. Augustine Parish Council, said Friday that he is pleased that the state won't pursue any criminal charges against his pastor.
"I believe Father is completely innocent, and these allegations are false, either intentionally or in someone's memory," Candelora said. "Our entire community is hoping and praying that he'll be vindicated."
The Rev. John Gatzak, spokesman for the Hartford archdiocese, said diocese officials would review the state's attorney's decision.
McSheffery could not be reached for comment.
An Associated Press report was included in this story.