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Abuse by former St. Agnes priest alleged by man in 40s; lawsuit filed

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published October 09. 2013 4:00AM

A man in his 40s who says he was molested by a parish priest at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Niantic as a teenager has filed a civil lawsuit against the Norwich Diocese, the church and retired Bishop Daniel Reilly.

The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, claims that the Rev. Vincent Marino plied him with money and alcohol in 1983 and 1984 and sexually assaulted him on church grounds and elsewhere. He is represented by New London attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr., who has won millions of dollars for plaintiffs in clergy sex abuse cases.

Reardon said his client reported the abuse to church officials when he reached his 20s, but nothing was done. Marino was transferred from St. Agnes to St. Mary's Church in Stonington and is now a parish priest in Siracusa, Sicily, according to Reardon. Marino is in his mid-50s.

"We have located him, and at some point we will be seeking his deposition," Reardon said. "We have to petition the Italian courts for permission."

According to the complaint filed last month in New London Superior Court, the plaintiff's family was active in the church, and the plaintiff served as a lector during Masses and attended Catholic schools.

"The plaintiff was raised to put his faith in his church, its clergy, priests and the defendant Diocese," according to the complaint.

Marino groomed the teen by lending him his car, buying him dinners, drinking wine with him in the church sacristy and elsewhere, watching pornographic movies with him in the St. Agnes rectory, taking him to hotels, and buying him liquor while he was still a minor, according to the complaint. When the teenager went away to college, Marino visited him, unannounced, and got him intoxicated to the point of vomiting, according to the complaint.

The church and Reilly failed to remove Marino, and the plaintiff suffered physical, emotional and mental illness as a result of the abuse, according to the complaint, which says he suffers from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and relationship problems.

Michael Strammiello, spokesman for the Norwich Diocese, said the diocese could not comment on pending litigation, but stressed in an email that the Catholic church, locally and worldwide, has a "massive commitment" to protecting children.

"Since the adoption in 2002 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Catholic Church has done more to protect children than almost any other organization in the United States," the email said. "At the local level, over 13,300 Diocese of Norwich clergy, employees and volunteers have been background screened and trained in safe environments. Screening includes personal interviews, a criminal background check, a Department of Children and Families check and a National Sex Abuse Registry check. The screening also includes fingerprinting of clergy and employees."

The Catholic Church has a zero tolerance policy on abuse, and the measures in place are audited by a third party on a regular basis, according to Strammiello.

Marino was featured in an article titled "The Divine Call: Who Will Answer?" which was published in The Day on July 22, 1984. Marino was 27 at the time and was serving as an assistant pastor at St. Agnes, where he celebrated Mass, officiated at weddings and funerals, counseled parishioners and ran a youth group, sometimes taking the young parishioners on trips to amusement parks.

Marino was quoted as saying he loved his job and felt his life had a purpose.

k.florin@theday.com

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