Previously Invited to Enter Church –
Wolfgang Halbig’s most recent visit to Newtown in early July included a stop by the St. Rose of Lima Parish to pay Monsignor Weiss a visit. A church employee directed the former Florida State Trooper into the church upon his arrival. “Go on inside,” he directed.
Upon entering the worship area Halbig, a lifelong Catholic, lit a candle for his mother who passed away several years ago. “My family belonged to one of the biggest Catholic churches in Germany,” before emigrating to the United States, he told MHB via telephone on July 23.
Shortly after being invited into the church, Halbig was informed that St. Rose officials had called 911 and police were on their way to confront the alleged trespasser. “I mean, can you say ‘entrapment’?”
Halbig has since been furnished with a formal “cease and desist” order (above) from the Bridgeport Diocese’s attorney. The notice reads in part:
… I write to serve you notice that you are to cease and desist any activity on or in the vicinity of St. Rose of Lima Parish, including the church, rectory, school and any other ancillary buildings on or near the parish grounds. Your presence will be considered a trespass and a nuisance.
The fact that Halbig was making a sincere attempt to speak with Weiss is entirely overlooked, as is parish officials’ clear maneuver to place Halbig in a compromised position. The subsequent issuance of such an order alongside the fact that an operating school exists on parish premises incorrectly suggests that Halbig’s presence may have somehow posed a threat.
This is particularly ironic since the Diocese of Bridgeport has developed a history of child sex abuse that dates to the 1960s. Weiss served in the Diocese since 1976. In 1997, a few years before Weiss was assigned as Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, the Bridgeport Diocese paid $36 million in settlements to 64 victims who brought suit for abuses they claimed to have suffered at the hands of its priests.
Despite these substantial payouts the child sex abuse reports continued. “The people have been asked to pay, pray and obey,” one critic of the Diocese observed in 2009.
If you go by the numbers, the Diocese of Bridgeport has 450,000 people and has spent almost $40 million in settlements. Boston, by contrast, has 2.5 million people and spent around $85 million in settlements. Per capita the Catholics sitting in the pews of the Bridgeport diocese have spent more with less information or satisfaction.
Among the Diocese of Bridgeport’s most notorious sexual predators was John J. Cataldo, who was active at St. Rose of Lima alongside Monsignor Weiss in the late 1990s, at the same time Adam Lanza was in grade school there. Cataldo also served as a chaplain for the Connecticut State Police
As Monsignor Weiss is well aware, Newtown and Connecticut more broadly consist of certain very tightly knit enclaves, always delighted to cooperate in parochial projects while warding off potential interlopers and the light of accountability.
Professor James F. Tracy is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. James Tracy’s work on media history, politics and culture has appeared in a wide variety of academic journals, edited volumes, and alternative news and opinion outlets. James is editor of Union for Democratic Communication’s Journal Democratic Communiqué and a contributor to Project Censored’s forthcoming publication Censored 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012. Additional writings and information are accessible at memoryholeblog.com.