Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport will present the captivating and chilling dramatic presentation, “Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned!” on Saturday, Nov. 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Norwalk Concert Hall in Norwalk City Hall, 125 East Avenue, Norwalk. Tickets may be purchased for $20 at www.votfbpt.org or at the door.
“Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned!” is based on actual testimony from clergy sexual abuse cases that took place in the Diocese of Bridgeport over a period of several decades. Following the presentation, a thought-provoking panel discussion will take place and will include Terry McKiernan of Bishop Accontability.org and Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
The dramatic presentation draws from approximately 11,000 of 12,600 pages of previously sealed court documents known as the Rosado files, that relate to the abuse of power and sexual abuse of children by clergy in the Diocese of Bridgeport, where more than $37 million of settlements has been paid to claimants.
The lawsuits of sexual abuse were brought in 1993 against several priests, including Raymond Pcolka, Martin Federici, Charles Carr and Laurence Brett, who are featured in the play. Aside from the introductory and narrative elements, the words of “Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned!” are taken directly from depositions, affidavits and letters from bishops, monsignors, abusers, victims and their families.
“A recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned.” Those were the words used by Msgr. William A. Genuario to explain the absence of Laurence Brett from his usual surroundings. Several diocesan officials gathered in 1964 to plan a course of action concerning an accusation of sexual abuse against Father Brett, then chaplain at Sacred Heart University. They decided that, until Bishop Walter W. Curtis returned from Rome, Fr. Brett would be sent to a retreat house and if anyone should inquire about his whereabouts the explanation would be “a recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned.”
Questioned about this by Attorney Paul Tremont, Msgr. Genuario conceded that it was a “poor choice of words.” He went on to say “I hate to think that we were going to tell a lie.” Tremont pressed him: “But you were going to tell a lie, weren't you?” He denied that but acknowledged that it was not his responsibility to inform the faithful that Brett was away because of the charge of sexual abuse. He also admitted that he did not recall that the Diocese of Bridgeport ever informed parishioners that a priest was absent or was transferred because of complaints of sexual misconduct. Nor did he advise the police department that this criminal act had occurred at Sacred Heart University.
Why “Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned!” now? The purpose of the play is to educate the faithful and the general public about the atrocities that occurred in the Catholic Church by those holding the most sacred positions and the blatant betrayal of the victims and the people of the church, but also of brother priests who, by and large, live their ordination promises and serve the people of God. Further, “Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned!” gives a voice to the voiceless and to the scores of children who were molested, and often times, disbelieved when they told those in authority about priestly abuse.