The Bridgeport diocese announced Wednesday that Robert Holzberg will lead its investigation, which will begin immediately and is expected to be finished next spring. Holzberg retired as a state Superior Court judge in 2012 and returned to private law practice.
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Bishop Frank Caggiano announced the probe last month amid continuing sex abuse scandals in the church worldwide, including a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that detailed decades of abuse and cover-ups.
The Bridgeport diocese says 29 of its priests over the decades have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, and the diocese has settled at least three dozen abuse lawsuits over the years.
Bishop Frank Caggiano is giving Holzberg all documents and records related to any allegations of abuse going back to 1953, when the Diocese was created. Caggiano announced the plans in a letter in September. The diocese says it is a response to the national clerical sexual abuse crisis and failure of church leadership to be accountable and transparent.
“I have pledged to the bishop and he has pledged to me that this will be absolutely thorough and under my complete discretion,” Judge Holzberg told news 8 Lead Investigative Reporter George Colli. “I think he feels deeply that there needs to be an accounting and people need to know what happened. The way he described it is by quoting his mother who says that ‘if you have an infection sometimes the best remedy is to peel off the scab.”
In a statement, Bishop Caggiano said, “My hope is that these measures will begin to heal the wounds that we feel and address the legitimate desire for real change that restores confidence in every level of leadership…I believe that the Church is facing a moment of crisis that demands honesty and repentance from the bishops and decisive action to ensure that these failures will never happen again.”
Claims of sexual abuse by Bridgeport clergy surfaced in the early 2000’s. Documents revealed former New York Cardinal and one-time Bridgeport bishop Edward Egan allowed several priests to continue working in the diocese despite facing multiple violations of abuse.
Holzberg has experienced= investigating sexual abuse claims. He investigated allegations of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student in the Stamford school system in 2014. In 2012, he was the mediator after Saint Francis Hospital staff was accused of abusing children. He says that he wants survivors and their families to know that he has empathy for what they went through.
“I want them to know that to the best of my ability, I will do everything I can to make sure all of the facts about these terrible episodes of abuse will be known.”
The Diocese says the bishop also committed to presenting a financial report on settlement amounts for all past claims of clergy sexual abuse of minors from the establishment of the Bridgeport diocese to today.