Church settles abuse case

The Archdiocese of Hartford has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle sexual abuse allegations against a Roman Catholic priest who served at parishes in the Naugatuck Valley.

The settlement was reached two weeks before the case was to go to trial.

William Dotson, now 39, filed allegations of sexual abuse against the Rev. Stephen Bzdyra that stemmed from when Dotson served as an altar boy between 1985 and 1990, when Bzdyra was a priest.

Dotson, one of at least three people to file sexual abuse claims against Bzdyra, said the priest forced him to perform multiple sexual acts when he was an altar boy between 1985 and 1990 at St. Hedwig in Naugatuck, St. Francis in New Haven and at a house in New Haven that Bzdyra owned.

Dotson’s New Haven-based attorney Joel T. Faxon said the church removed Bzdyra from the priesthood when the lawsuit was filed.

“There’s no question in my mind that this guy is a pedophile and he abused a lot of kids and he doesn’t have access to children anymore, at least within the diocese,” Faxon said Wednesday.

Dotson made the allegations in 2010 after he said Bzdyra tried to contact Dotson’s 9-year-old son on the Internet. Dotson went on to explain the gruesome sexual assaults, which included rape and oral sex, in numerous court documents.

Superior Court Judge and former Supreme Court Justice Robert Berdon found in 2010 that there was “more than adequate evidence to support the plaintiff’s claim that Bzdyra sexually abused him when he was a young boy.”

Additionally, it said, “another witness was produced who also gave evidence of the same sexual abuse when he was a young boy by the defendant Bzdyra.”

Dotson said Bzdyra bribed him with lavish gifts to keep quiet, according to court documents.

The archdiocese placed Bzdyra on administrative leave immediately after Dotson made the allegations. At the time, Bzdyra was a pastor at St. Augustine Church in Seymour.

“This was the first case, and I don’t know how many of these I’ve done, that this action was against a practicing priest and thank God I did, because they immediately took him out of circulation and he was no longer allowed to act as a priest,” Faxon said.

He never returned to the archdiocese.

“Who the hell knows what he’s doing wandering around the streets of Connecticut or wherever he is,” Faxon said.

For five years, the archdiocese contested liability, denying knowledge of sexual and physical abuse by Bzdyra.

Faxon said the defense was compromised when a Catholic nun testified that she witnessed Bzdyra’s “disturbing and inappropriate behavior toward an altar boy in the mid-1980s.”

She said she even sent a letter to diocesan authorities expressing her deep concerns, according to an Associated Press report.

On Wednesday, Maria Zone, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, emailed the Republican-American a prepared statement stating it is the organization’s policy not to comment on specific cases or settlements.

Zone added in the statement, “Notably, since 2002 the Archdiocese of Hartford has followed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The purpose of this Charter is to provide a safe, protective environment for children, young people and others who might be vulnerable. The Charter requires mandatory background checks for all personnel who encounter minors and vulnerable adults. All Archdiocesan, parish, and school employees and volunteers must participate in a sexual abuse awareness and prevention program.”

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