Bridgeport - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport has agreed to pay $200,000 to the family of a man who claimed he was abused as a child first by a gardener and then a priest at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull in the 1970s.
Michael Powel died in October 2008 after an eight-year battle with cancer but his wife and two adult children continued his lawsuit against the diocese.
"It has been a long road and it's really unfortunate Mike couldn't be here to see the end of it," said the family's lawyer, Michael Reck.
Powel won a $10 million verdict five years ago, that he was never able to collect, against Carlo Fabbozzi, a former janitor/landscaper at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull, who Powel claimed had sexually abused him in the late 1960s and early '70s. He later claimed that after Fabbozzi abused him, a priest then assigned to St. Theresa's, the Rev. Joseph Gorecki, also abused him in 1971.
Powell also had made allegations of being sexually abused by a former Boy Scout troop leader in Easton and by two clergymen who were teachers at a college prep school Powell attended in Missouri.
Powel, who grew up in Bridgeport and later moved to Florida, first told Bishop William Lori and diocesan officials about the alleged abuse by Fabbozzi in 2002. He claimed he was one of several boys working with Fabbozzi at St. Theresa's, and that Fabbozzi had molested him several times in a shed on church grounds.
Diocesan officials, however, steadfastly maintain Fabbozzi was not a diocese employee, and the diocese was not a party in Powel's lawsuit against Fabbozzi. But during the Fabbozzi trial in Superior Court, Monsignor Laurence Bronkiewicz testified, via a videotaped deposition, that he interviewed Fabbozzi shortly after Powel's allegations became public. He said Fabbozzi admitted to abusing Powel.
Bronkiewicz, a former diocesan chancellor, testified that after another person came forward with abuse allegations against Fabbozzi, he told the pastor of St. Theresa's Church to fire Fabbozzi.
After going public with his abuse allegations, Powel became a vocal critic of the way the diocese had handled allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
In an unusual move, Lori later had a letter read to parishioners across the diocese castigating Powel.
"Mr. Powel's 'Lawn Man Liability Theory' goes where no other liability claims against Catholic institutions have gone before," Lori stated in the letter. "Imagine if you were held responsible for what your lawn man, plumber, or electrician may have done over 40 years ago! This is what the diocese is now fighting."