A retired judge and current law partner at Pullman & Comley has been tapped by the Diocese of Bridgeport to head an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by clergy going back decades.
Robert Holzberg said he received a commitment from Bishop Frank Caggiano that nothing would be off-limits in his investigation. Holzberg will look into the history of clergy sex abuse of children during the last 65 years, and the diocese response to that abuse.
Holzberg was brought on by diocese in-house counsel Anne McCrory.
“I needed a commitment of the bishop that he was fine with this investigation being conducted according to my best judgment and discretion, and with the full and complete cooperation of the diocese,” Holzberg said Friday.
The diocese’s own website lists 29 former clergy who its says were “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct. Of those, only two were convicted and spent time in prison.
McCrory said the recent Pennsylvania attorney general’s report into sex abuse in that state played a part in the diocese hiring Holzberg. That report found more than 1,000 children were molested by more than 300 clergy in six of the state’s dioceses since the 1940s.
“Certainly the information that became public in the summer months caused great distress to many of the faithful, as well as to the dedicated clergy that serve the mission of Christ,” said McCrory, who added the Pennsylvania report “revealed the failure of the church and its leadership in terms of dealing with the sexual abuse of minors. This has created a crisis throughout the church that must be addressed now.”
Holzberg, who has been either a practicing attorney, Superior Court judge or law professor since 1978, said he was told his team will have unlimited access to all of the diocese archives and files since 1953, the year the Diocese of Bridgeport spun off from the Hartford Diocese. Holzberg said there are at least hundreds of thousands of documents to sift through.
“There could even be more than 1 million documents,” he said. “We don’t know yet, we are just beginning the process.”
Holzberg, who began the investigation on Sept. 28, said he hopes to be done by the spring. The report and its supporting documents will be made public.
“That time frame is not set in stone, it could go longer depending on what we unearth,” Holzberg said. “That will guide us regarding the length of the investigation. It will be absolutely thorough and comprehensive.”
Holzberg said he currently has four Pullman & Comley attorneys and investigators assisting him. Holzberg declined to say who else is on his team.
The investigation will include numerous interviews with “relevant witnesses,” which could encompass clergy and victims of sex abuse.
“This investigation is important because, I think, the victims and survivors of abuse are entitled to have a full accounting of what happened,” Holzberg said.
Caggiano was in Rome Friday and was not available for comment. But Caggiano did address the issue in a statement on the diocese website.
“I believe that the church is facing a moment of crisis that demands honesty and repentance from the bishops and decisive action to ensure that these failures will never happen again.” Caggiano wrote.
Caggiano wrote that Holzberg “epitomizes long-term dedicated and conscientious service to the community. He possesses the highest integrity, and he has made substantial contributions to the administration of justice in Connecticut.”
Holzberg declined to say how much Pullman & Comley, which has offices in Bridgeport and Hartford, is being paid to conduct the investigation.