Archive for Friday, May 17, 2002

Accused priest found hanged

May 17, 2002

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— A priest accused of sexual misconduct was found hanged at a psychiatric hospital Thursday, the second apparent suicide of a clergyman since the sex abuse scandal engulfed the Roman Catholic Church.

The priest, identified by church officials as the Rev. Alfred J. Bietighofer, was sent to the hospital to undergo psychiatric evaluation after the allegations surfaced and he resigned from his parish in Bridgeport, Conn.

Bietighofer, 64, was found hanging in his room at St. Luke Institute in suburban Washington, according to Prince George's County Police. The Rev. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist who directs the center, said a nurse found the body.

"I am profoundly saddened by the tragic death of Father Alfred Bietighofer," Bridgeport Bishop William Lori said in a statement Thursday. "To parishioners and to all those whom Father Bietighofer assisted during the course of his priestly ministry, I extend my sincere sympathy and prayers."

Last month, two men told Bridgeport Diocese officials that Bietighofer abused them when they were boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, church officials said. Bietighofer, who was assistant pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Bridgeport, resigned April 29.

"The allegations from the two gentlemen were credible enough to warrant immediate action, in line with our policy," Lori said at the time the priest resigned.

The Rev. Robert J. Crofut, pastor of St. Andrew Church, declined comment Thursday night.

Bridgeport attorney Jason Tremont, who represented the two alleged victims, said his clients had mixed emotions on learning of the priest's death.

"It's certainly something we're not happy about. The victims think that any loss of life is unfortunate," Tremont said. "The victims are still glad they came forward. Their goal was to prevent sexual abuse from happening again to any minor."

The Connecticut Post reported that the men accused Bietighofer of fondling them when they were children when he was assigned to Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport.

Bietighofer told Post he didn't know anything about the allegations.

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