By Eva Wilton & Nathan Terry
Executive & Managing Editors
This January the Society of St. Edmund paid $900,000 in a settlement with former altar boy Andrew Aspinwall who said he was sexually abused by former priest Charles Many during the late 1970s and early 1980s. While he was an edmundite priest, Many did not work for St. Michael’s Collegeat any time during his priesthood.
“March 2015 was when I received a notice that we were being sued in the case of Andrew Aspinwall of New London,” said Rev. Stephen W. Hornat, Superior General of the Society of St. Edmund in an interview. This case was against the diocese of Norwich and Society of St. Edmund, and three other defendants in the case as well,” Hornat explained.
“We dealt with it the right way by immediately letting Many go and putting him under virtual house arrest, and then having him removed from the priesthood,” Hornat said. By contrast, Hornat said, “I think that a lot of bishops were not at that point and not doing that. Instead, they were transferring people from place to place.”
Aspinwall, whose abuse happened 30 years ago, is the second former altar boy to sue the society for sexual abuse committed by Many. John Waddington, another altar boy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, filed a lawsuit in 1996 and received a settlement for $850,000, only to have the verdict overturned after evidence from another parishioner’s involvement with Many had been admitted improperly.
“The judgment came Dec. 12, 2000 from U.S. District Court,” Hornat said. “It said that the Society of St. Edmund came forward with undisputed evidence that it did not know of Mr. Many’s proclivities prior to 1986. The plaintiff did not have any evidence to dispute against this evidence. That court case cleared us that we did not have any knowledge prior to 1986.” Waddington has not decided whether to appeal.
“As a result of the Waddington case, Father Hart in 1994 sent out an open letter to Sacred Heart Parish and this letter was circulated throughout the dioceses,” Hornat said. “It was a call that anyone who had knowledge of Charles Many or was abused by Charles Many was to come forward.”
In 2005, the Society of St. Edmund set forth its policies on ethics and integrity in a 35-page document. Hornat said that the document ensures that the Edmundites are mandatory reporters and are required to immediately call police the moment they are aware if there is a victim. It is Hornat’s responsibility to remove the offender from the clergy.