Diocese of Norwich. Diocese of Norwich. Photo: Google

The Norwich Roman Catholic Diocese has paid $900,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging a priest sexually abused a boy for 10 years, beginning when the child was 11 years old.

Plaintiff Jonathan Roy, now 40, is one of multiple men to bring allegations against Paul Hebert, who retired from the Most Holy Trinity Church in Pomfret, where he served as priest until 2004. His case was the third time the diocese has settled a suit involving Hebert, who died in 2010 after serving several congregations.

Plaintiffs counsel was Kelly Reardon, partner at The Reardon Law Firm in New London. Her client’s pleadings alleged Hebert assaulted Roy “hundreds of times.” Reardon said her client insisted on going public, and filed suit against the Norwich Diocese in 2016.

The two sides settled Monday.

Representing the Norwich Diocese is Brad Babbitt of Robinson & Cole. Babbitt did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

In an email statement, Diocese spokesman Wayne Gignac said: “We hope that the recent settlement reached in the case of allegations concerning late Father Paul Hebert brings closure to the parties involved.”

In court papers filed in February 2017, the diocese claimed many of the counts against the institution should be dismissed because they implicate “matters of religious doctrine and practice.”

“Although the court can adjudicate secular claims against a religious institution, it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over specific allegations that implicate religious matters and doctrine, contained within otherwise secular counts,” the group argued.

The suit alleges the church knew Hebert had acted inappropriately with boys and young men, going back to 1980, but did nothing. Reardon said the priest sexually assaulted Roy from 1990, when the child was a church altar boy, to about 2000.

Reardon said there was information about a disturbing incident involving another young man decades earlier, when Hebert worked in St. Michael Church in Pawcatuck, about 50 miles from Pomfret.

“There was a memorandum in Father Hebert’s files from 1980,” Reardon said. “The chairman of the Board of Vicars of Priests detailed an incident in Pawcatuck regarding an inappropriate incident with a male adult parishioner. Instead of responding appropriately to this incident, they [church officials] discouraged that victim from going to the police and reporting it. Obviously, we believe they should have taken steps to remove Father Hebert from the priesthood at that time, and they should have reported the incident to the authorities.”

The lawsuit states that Daniel Reilly, who was bishop and chief executive officer of the Norwich diocese from 1975 to 1994, and Daniel Hart, who was bishop and chief executive officer of the diocese from 1994 to 2003, knew about Hebert’s inappropriate behavior toward boys, and did nothing. Hart is dead, but Reilly, who is now 91 years old and living in Massachusetts, declined to comment Tuesday.

Reardon said Roy stopped the alleged assaults when he was 21 years old, and told his parents in 2016, right before he filed suit.

“He really was brainwashed by this molester,” Reardon said. “[Herbert would] give him large sums of money, alcohol and many presents.”

Roy began therapy in 2016 and is “doing fairly well” today, his attorney said.

“He still struggles with the effect of the abuse,” Reardon said. “He, fortunately, has a good support system in place. He is very pleased with the settlement and feels as if a chapter of his life that was extremely disturbing and difficult is coming to an end.”

While many sexual assault victims choose to remain anonymous, Reardon said it was important for Roy to attach his name to the lawsuit.

“He wanted others to know there is no shame in being a victim,” Reardon said. “He wanted to ensure that other victims would feel able and empowered to come forward.”

 

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