Paving Incumbency, Plus: Examining The Church Scandal

Why is power of incumbency a juicy thing? Because you can make things happen such as paving streets (if you have money).

News release from Mayor Bill Finch:

Street Paving Project Announced

The City of Bridgeport today announced that it has completed preliminary design for street repaving improvements on Capitol Avenue and Iranistan Avenue, expected to begin in Spring 2010. The $2.1 million projected cost will be paid for through a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The project will cover reconstruction of pavement on Capitol Avenue from Main Street to Lincoln Boulevard, and on Iranistan Avenue from State Street to Admiral Street. The pavement reconstruction project will entail a full depth reconstruction of the entire roadway from curb to curb. Iranistan Avenue from Admiral to Atlantic Street will be repaved. Streets will be open to traffic during construction work.

Any community members or residents who would like more information about this project should contact: Jon Urquidi, Engineering Supervisor, City of Bridgeport, City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604, or by e-mail at Please refer to State Project No. 15-343 in all correspondence.

 Top Decade Stories

For me, the sexual abuse scandal in the Diocese of Bridgeport is among the top stories of the decade in Bridgeport. Yes, much of this stuff goes back decades, but it took the guts of a number of adults abused as kids to let people know the last leaders on the planet you’d expect to molest kids were priests. And wouldn’t it have been nice if the bishops in charge showed real leadership instead of lawyering the abuses? I asked John Marshall Lee, an OIB reader, to write a guest blog to place into context what happened and what it all means to the church. Lee is an officer with the Bridgeport chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a support group of the abused that seeks structural changes in the church. See

BRIDGEPORT: The Story of the Decade–2000-10

By John Marshall Lee

“Dog bites man,” is not a story worth running with print space so precious these days, and even “Man bites dog” may not be worth more than a couple lines. So a Bridgeport ten year story has to have durable “legs” and teem with the unholy trinity of subjects: “sex, money, and power.” I’ll guess that the major nominees to Only In Bridgeport will be members of our political cast where personal reaching for goods or money stretched the low level local understanding of “conflict of interest” too far, and the judicial system removed Mayor Ganim from his chair. The “legs” in this case extend for those hopefuls during Joe G’s Federal prison sentence, expecting him to be received home in 2010 in an “all is forgiven” embrace by an electorate fully reconciled to the financial and reputational damage done to the City.

Well all of that may play, but the story I would nominate is a longer running “immorality play” locally, having cost “powers that be” more “loss of authority” and financial consequences. No one has yet gone to prison in the past ten years for the major “sex, money and power” story that is present in spades. I am talking about the Diocese of Bridgeport under former Bishop Edward Egan and more recently Bishop William Lori. The territory they rule from a Bridgeport headquarters on Jewett Avenue extends the entirety of Fairfield County within which about 50% of the population is identified as Catholic by the Diocesan website. The stories of sexual abuse of youth by Catholic priests exploded in 2001 out of Boston. Bishop Lori went to the 2002 US Council of Catholic Bishop meeting in Dallas that addressed this scandal and came home with a solution, the Safe Environments program that he has installed in the Diocese. 90,000 persons have taken VIRTUS training and a Diocesan Review Board was appointed to receive reports of abuse but have provided little if any info about their work since then.

Around $40 million has been paid to claimants. Thirty-four priests have had public allegations made against them. More than two have protested their innocence yet still serve as priests because some allegations of abuse have not been found “credible” by the Diocese. But the priests did not get a chance in court to clear their names and reputations, nor did they have recourse to Canon Law rights. Why not? Well, perhaps it is because the power of the Bishop is such that only he gets to practice full “freedom of religion,” pointing out that the Roman Catholic Church is not a democracy, that ‘brother priests’ promise obedience to him (rather than the ‘independent contractor status’ explained by Bishop Egan), and that laypersons, especially, hold no real practical power under Church law. Even when laypersons are included in Church administration, they are appointed by a Pastor or Bishop, serve at their pleasure solely, and are there merely for their “advisory” potential, if and when called.

Diocesan governance is thus even tighter than Democratic party control of the levers of power in Bridgeport. There are no elections. Candidates are not even part of the local citizenry when Rome selects you. And the trappings of your office include a 10,000 square foot residence in the ‘burbs. The Bishop has his own newspaper, The Fairfield County Catholic, a monthly, in which his words and image appear frequently. A member of the faithful with a contrasting opinion may not get printed in a Letter to the Editor or even in a paid advertisement!

While Bishop Lori gets to review the finances of all 87 parishes (since millions were discovered missing during the decade in at least two parishes, and one pastor was Federally indicted and sentenced), the people in the pews have no audited comprehensive view of Diocesan finances, which certainly exceed $1 Billion of assets. Significant revenue flows from “taxation without representation” paid by parishes to the Diocese, educational assessments on parishes by the Diocese, and a Bishop’s Annual Appeal that becomes a parish obligation when goals are not met. Income flows from investments and grants from governments to support service programs, as well.

How else could one: Support a legal battle to keep thousands of pages of legal documents (revealing the mindset and confidential inner workings of clerical leadership)? Keep sealed and secret records of sexual abuse response for the better part of ten years? Fight major US newspapers waging battle in CT State courts and finally in the US Supreme Court where, after all appeals were exhausted in 2009; some of the 12,675 pages were released? How else could you provide multiple “secret settlements” of tens of thousands of dollars except that Catholic ‘citizenry’ has been expected to pay, pray, and obey? For the most part they have stayed, too. But many Catholics have abandoned the pews or have begun to send dollars where there is fuller accountability to indicate the works of Christian mercy that are supported.


Multiple credible cases coming to light of “sexual abuse,” otherwise felonies, perpetrated by multiple “men of God” against children and youth but no court action or prison time;

Lots of “money” spent and held (financial or real assets representing real value) that is neither subject to income, property or estate taxes and for which no open or transparent record is required or voluntarily made at this time;

Incredible “power” abuse as hypocrisy as stewards by a small group of ordained men to frustrate any timely or meaningful response to complaints or reports about “sexual abuse” or other improper priestly behavior and a continuing effort to fashion State Law to support their own Canon Law position and then to guide the faithful to support without any discussion any changes in the rules of governance or structural change raising the banner of “religious freedom” in opposition.

Isn’t this Bridgeport’s BIG STORY of the past decade?



  1. Lennie while the abuse by catholic priests is certainly an issue for the decade it is the focus of a specific group. I tried to lay out my top 10 as to cover the city as a whole.

    Things that happened in Bridgeport in the last 10 years:
    1. Mayor Ganim goes to jail.
    2. State Rep Newton goes to jail.
    3. Mayor Fabrizi commits 2 dumb things and is out as mayor.
    4. Reluctant Mayor Finch is elected to a seat he really does not want.
    5. Golf course lease engineered by Marsilio & Murphy fails and the city takes a financial beating.
    6. Redevelopment of downtown starts with Nancy Hadley leading the way. Nancy Hadley replaced and downtown redevelopment stops.
    7. Bluefish attendance drops by about 50% and team is sold.
    8. Steel Point gets passed by council for a second time, still nothing built.
    9. City is told by prominent activists to change toilets in city buildings so there will be room at treatment plant for Monroe’s sewage. The birth of Flush Timpanelli.
    10. Zoning rewrite and Master plan stalled by Finch Political maneuvering. Finally passes.
    Just 10 items that I can think of. Feel free to add to the list.

    1. TC: You post a comprehensive list and do so in an entertaining way.

      I believe that the Church sexual abuse scandal goes deeper than priest gropes, diddles or rapes of female child or adolescent boy, though that is what happened too many times over the years without judicial review.

      You indicate that this is the focus of only a specific group.

      I would ask that you stretch your thinking a bit and consider that had the Bishops of the Diocese of Bridgeport been more upstanding with their regard of criminal law, Canon Law, and plain human sensitivity when they heard rumors, inklings or stories of priestly abuse, they would not have mismanaged the immoral behavior of priests so badly.

      Were they able to get away with it? Are they getting away with it? Is that the mentality of City leaders who run for office, many of whom have been raised as Catholics, and adopted to survive in the political arena? Does a person in elected or appointed office do something to gain money, goods, maintain or enhance power, repay a debt burden and fail to see that their job mission is in conflict? Is information about the act or behavior out in the open, posted in a transparent way, and something for which the worker/volunteer is accountable to the public?

      Well, it hasn’t been so within the Diocese of Bridgeport governance structure, obviously. And it seems that many recent Mayors have operated in the same royal fashion. When a conflict presents itself, it frequently is referred to legal to go with the regal attitude. That destroys the trust of the people and returns us to “Don’t know and don’t care” public sensibility. And that so contributes to municipal destruction that it must be addressed and resisted wherever it surfaces in the territory.

      Church scandal revelations are not your principal area of concern. But do you see how the infection can spread from an institution that preaches moral authority (and gets away with depravity) to people who operate in another local governance structure? And the real shame of it is that Bishop Curtis, Bishop Egan, and Bishop Lori were not local residents when they were sent here by Rome to run things the way that Vatican City intended … secretly, without any possible pushback mechanisms for wrongs done and never, never fully admitting that mistakes of fact, errors in judgment, and the fear of scandal, grounded management hypocrisy.
      See any parallels between City of Bridgeport and Diocese of Bridgeport? Again, thanks for your municipal insight!

  2. TC in many ways is right on his top ten list.

    However the Diocese of Bridgeport ran a criminal enterprise that could be legally argued was a RICO operation that perpetrated and perpetuated crimes against children. We were all sickened by the gross acts of Phillip Giordano. The Bridgeport diocese pedophilia history is even more sickening. The diocese tried to hide behind their Cassocks and $urplu$$e$ and legal wrangling. After their cover was blown (pun intended) and they got caught with their pants down, they beat their chests with mea culpas saying that everything is now Kosher. No Bernard Cardinal, or Bishop, is above the Law. Lennie should write a book on this matter and call it “Altar Egos!”.

  3. Lennie: It seems to me that the bloggers have gone south. While there were never a great number that posted it seems the ones that did stopped.
    Your OIB party shows that there are a lot that read the blog but few participate. What a shame. I have heard all the excuses. 1. I don’t like the tough talk, 2. I don’t want my ideas beaten up. 3. I don’t want people to know who I am and the list of excuses goes on and on.
    This is the only area where people’s thoughts and ideas can be voiced. Radio, forget about it. CT post blog, forget about it. If no one participates then another voice in Bridgeport will surely die. Then what? Then the politicians win again. It’s back to let’s feed them bullshit what are they going to say about it and where are they going to say it? Nowhere.

  4. TC:

    Fear not! It is the holiday season. People are either playing games with the kids, visiting relatives, or thinking about jumping off bridges.

    Cheer up old friend. Your position as an epicure of Bridgeport bullshit remains needed, wanted, secure. Where else but OIB may the Finch administration go to discover if their bullshit is first rate, or in need of more seasoning? Is their bullshit firm and steaming, or drippy and gelid?

    You would not want our mayor to be accused of passing off second-rate bullshit to the citizens of Bridgeport. He has standards to meet. After all, he must stand for secretary of state this coming year. We would not have Mayor Finch pass off anything but first-rate bullshit to the citizens of Connecticut.

    The press office needs to know if mere horseshit can be substituted for bullshit. They are paid great sums of money to evaluate these things. Even more in these budget-conscious times, elected leaders and their advisers need to know if the more thrifty human waste can be substituted for horseshit or bullshit.

    That is a lot of shit to consider.

    I’m sure Mayor Finch is grateful for all the shit he can get from us.

  5. Good post from my neighbor John Marshall Lee. Great list from TC. I’d add one: The many unindicted co-conspirators and other assorted Testacrats who somehow escaped federal prosecution and prison time in the Ganim corruption scandals, remaining free to scheme and steal another day. You know who you are.

  6. I see the Catholic Bishops, Politicians and the populace in general afraid to confront issues that are before them. They tell people what they think they want to hear. I venture to say if the sex-abuse issues were faced early on it might have saved some young person a lifetime of hell. Instead it was buried and people (Bishops and such) figured it would go away. Lay people refused to believe the truth about the sex abuse.
    Today’s society does not want to be told the truth, they don’t want to know the truth. Often the truth is hard to deal with and makes people confront things they would rather ignore.
    Politicians from a local level to a federal level are all accomplished liars. If they told the truth on a variety of subjects they would not get elected. Here are 2 examples of what every single politician has stated and will continue to state because the voting public buys this bullshit.
    1. I am not going to raise your taxes.
    2. I am going to improve education.
    Sooner or later the truth always comes out and when it does everyone acts like it was the greatest revelation since the 10 commandments.
    The truth is always easy to remember it’s the lies that are hard to remember.

    1. TC, you forgot #3: “I am going to clean house and get rid of the dead weight.” Bullshit. The past 10 years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of political, do-nothing, unqualified employees. Maybe Lennie should do a comparison of the 2000 budget and the 2010 budget. It will be fun to compare which depts got downsized and which ones got upsized.

  7. “Bridgeport Now” Tue at 8pm on Ch 88.
    Some stories we are following for tomorrow’s program.

    Achievement First Bridgeport improves students
    Black Rock gets 37 new low-income housing units
    Black Rock Train station bridge to nowhere
    BOE wants city to pay up for city school events $500k
    Ellsworth Park Bathroom controversy
    Ferry move to East End
    Pleasure Beach demolition of houses
    Zoning new rules in Bridgeport on Jan 1, 2010

    If you haven’t tuned in for a while due to shaky camera, please be advised that production values have improved. We fired that last camera operator.


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