By JOSH KOVNER, The Hartford Courant
By the time the Rev. John Castaldo began molesting a boy named Brooks Thopsey at a Roman Catholic church in Trumbull roughly two decades ago, he had already exhibited behavior that should have kept him from the priesthood, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday on Thopsey’s behalf.
Despite his expulsion from a Long Island seminary for “remarkably bizarre behavior” and a psychological assessment that said he was “preoccupied with his own sexual urges,” Castaldo was ordained by the Rev. Walter Curtis and given his first posting, St. Theresa Church in the Diocese of Bridgeport, in 1987, said one of Thopsey’s attorneys, Joel Faxon of New Haven.
The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in New Haven, names four defendants: Castaldo; the diocese; Curtis, who is deceased; and Cardinal Edward Egan, who was bishop of the Bridgeport diocese at the time of the alleged abuse. The suit seeks monetary and punitive damages.
The diocese denies that it brought in a known sexual deviant and said it was surprised by Thopsey’s allegations.
“To say we wantonly brought in a sexual predator that we knew was going to prey on youth is absolutely not the case,” said Brian Wallace, a diocesan spokesman.
In a statement, the diocese said it was told in the past by a representative of Thopsey’s family that he had suffered psychological harm but that the episode was unrelated to any sexual abuse by Castaldo. The diocese said it “reached out” to Thopsey but he never responded.
Faxon said that Thopsey only recently disclosed the abuse to his therapists, that he went back and forth about bringing a lawsuit, and that he discussed the abuse publicly for the first time during a press conference at Faxon’s office on Wednesday.
“We’re happy to have the diocese defend the actions of Castaldo in court,” Faxon said, adding that the diocese, in 2005, settled a sexual abuse lawsuit brought against Castaldo by Thopsey’s brother, Ryan. Faxon said the dollar amount in the settlement was “substantial.”
Thopsey, 30, of Stratford, says in the suit that he was sexually abused by Castaldo from 1989 to 1992 and that he still carries the pain and emotional scars.
“This is such a huge step for me,” Thopsey said at the press conference. “Walking out of here, I’m going to be holding my head up high. I’m going to feel good about myself. … What happened to me was wrong. But it wasn’t my fault. I know that now.”
He spoke of going to confession and hearing Castaldo tell him to say Hail Marys so his sins could be forgiven. He said that over the years, he has considered suicide and has been hospitalized for alcohol and drug abuse.
Castaldo, who graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary in Wisconsin, was snagged in a sex sting in Westchester County, N.Y., in 2001. He was convicted of having explicit sexual conversations on the Internet with a police officer posing as a 14-year-old boy. Castaldo was given a short jail term and five years of probation. He was defrocked in 2001.
After leaving St. Theresa, Castaldo served at parishes in Newton, Ridgefield, Darien and Stamford. He was working as the spiritual adviser to 425 students at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford at the time of his arrest in 2001, Faxon said.
The commentary about Castaldo’s expulsion from the New York seminary and the psychological assessment were sent to the Bridgeport diocese, Faxon said. He said the information was there for Egan to see when he arrived in 1988 as bishop to take the helm of the diocese.
Wallace said the diocese “would not characterize the record that way. In retrospect, the record looks different than it actually was.”
Faxon said that Curtis never should have hired Castaldo and that Egan never should have let him remain. Egan, elevated to cardinal, was archbishop of New York from 2000 to 2009 before he stepped down. He has since received assignments from Pope Benedict XVI.
“We will go to the Vatican if we have to, to take a sworn deposition from Cardinal Egan,” Faxon said. “There’s one question I want to ask him: ‘Why did you allow a sexual deviant to consort with children?'”