Friday, July 9, 2010

Priest Has Been Named In 2 Lawsuits

Courant.com
Priest Has Been Named In 2 Lawsuits


By DAVE ALTIMARI, daltimar@courant.com

8:24 PM EDT, July 8, 2010

A priest recently accused in a lawsuit of molesting an altar boy also is involved in a pending lawsuit over an employment dispute that includes an allegation that he discussed masturbation during a religious class for girls at St. Hedwig's School.

The previous lawsuit, filed by former St. Hedwig's School Principal Patricia Dayner, is currently before the state Supreme Court. It stemmed from an incident in which the Rev. Stephen Bzdyra was teaching religion to seventh- and eighth- grade girls at the Naugatuck school.

At least one of the students went to Dayner's office after class to complain that she was upset that Bzdyra talked about masturbation. When Dayner confronted Bzdyra he had her call the student into the office where he proceeded to scream at the student, the lawsuit said.

Bzdyra ordered Dayner to report the girl to the state Department of Children and Families, which she refused to do, the lawsuit says.

Bzydra, who was then pastor of St. Hedwig's Church, gave Dayner a poor performance review and church officials tried to demote her from principal to teaching a third-grade class before ultimately dismissing her, the lawsuit said.

Dayner sued the Archdiocese of Hartford and Bzdyra personally, claiming she was illegally fired because she refused to report the girl to DCF. Attorneys for the church tried to have the case dismissed by claiming a "ministerial exception," that the principal of a Catholic School is similar to a priest and therefore under the First Amendment the church has a right to hire or fire as it pleases because employment laws do not apply to the church.

A Superior Court judge dismissed that argument and the church appealed. The Supreme Court has decided to hear the case although no date for arguments has been set.

The lawsuit filed this week in New Haven alleges that Bzdyra, currently the pastor at St. Augustine Church in Seymour, abused William Dotson starting in the mid-1980s when Dotson was an altar boy at St. Francis Church in New Haven.

The Archdiocese of Hartford said that it had not been served with the lawsuit and knew about it only from media reports. The Rev. John Gatzak, spokesman for the diocese, said church officials were "shocked" by the allegations in the lawsuit.

Gatzak referred questions about the Dayner lawsuit to the church's labor attorney, Jeffrey Pingpank, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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