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Spotlight Report

Conn. bishop's resignation OK'd

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 3/12/2003

The Vatican yesterday accepted the resignation of Bishop Daniel A. Hart of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. -- the seventh American bishop to step down since the clergy sexual abuse crisis erupted last January.

Hart, a former auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston under Cardinal Bernard F. Law, had reached the mandatory retirement age for bishops on his 75th birthday last August. He submitted his resignation at that time.

During the past year, Hart had come under increasing scrutiny for his role in the abuse scandal, and he is named as a defendant in several lawsuits filed in Massachusetts and Connecticut that accuse him of negligence in his supervision of abusive priests.

Church documents made public last year show that Hart played a role in the cases of several accused priests, including the Rev. Benjamin McMahon, who was arrested in the mid-1980s and accused of performing a sex act with another man, but received favorable treatment in court after Hart intervened. Hart also used the church's influence to ensure that the outcome of McMahon's case would be private, according to church records.

While in Boston, where he was ordained, Hart was a supervisor of the Rev. Anthony J. Rebeiro, a suspended priest accused of sexually assaulting a female parishioner in 1983. The woman and her husband described Hart as insensitive when they came forward with their complaint. Rebeiro was transferred to another parish.

In 1979, as a regional bishop on the South Shore, Hart was warned by a Quincy couple that the Rev. Robert V. Gale should be kept away from children. But Gale, who last year was indicted for allegedly raping a Waltham altar boy in the early 1980s, was transferred.

Hart was the aide who notified Law in 1984 that the Rev. Robert V. Meffan said he had ''a `mission' confided to him by God which he is bound to keep secret,'' a comment that led another church official to call Meffan unbalanced. Meffan later admitted to initiating sexual acts with girls studying to become nuns.

Pope John Paul II has named as Hart's successor Monsignor Michael R. Cote, 53, who has been an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Portland, Maine, since 1995. Cote will be installed May 14. Hart has said he will leave immediately; an interim administrator will be named for the transition.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story. Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at pfeiffer@globe.com.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 3/12/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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