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Spotlight Report

Bishop denies abuse allegations; diocese levels countercharge

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 7/13/2002

An auxiliary bishop in Worcester yesterday denied that he molested a teenager four decades ago, and the Worcester diocese accused the complainant of extortion.

Bishop George E. Rueger, 72, said he did not abuse Sime Braio, 52, despite accusations made by Braio in a lawsuit filed Thursday in Worcester Superior Court.

''These allegations are totally unfounded,'' Rueger said at a news conference. ''What the allegation cites some 40 years ago never happened.''

Braio, of Shrewsbury, alleged in the lawsuit that Rueger began to abuse him when Braio was a 13-year-old altar boy at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Worcester. Braio alleged that the abuse continued when he was a student at the Lyman School for Boys in Westborough, where Braio says he was placed after running away because of the abuse.

Braio said he informed the Diocese of Worcester of his allegation 10 months ago. His decision to file a lawsuit was first reported by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Diocesan officials said they investigated Braio's allegation and determined it to be false. They said they also reported it to Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte. The diocese said Conte did not substantiate the allegation; Conte did not return two calls seeking comment yesterday.

Diocesan spokesman Raymond L. Delisle said Worcester Bishop Daniel P. Reilly does not believe the allegation against Rueger. Delisle said the only time Rueger recalls interacting with Braio was when he once visited him in a hospital, and he said there has never been another abuse allegation against Rueger during his 50 years as a Worcester priest.

The diocesan chancellor, Monsignor Thomas J. Sullivan, accused Braio of extortion, saying that Braio had threatened to talk to the Worcester Telegram unless he was paid money by the diocese. Sullivan said the diocese reported the extortion allegation to State Police.

Braio's lawyer, Daniel J. Shea of Houston, said his client did not try to extort money from the diocese and stands by his allegations.

''I don't believe a single word coming from the mouth of any bishop of the Catholic Church,'' Shea said. ''We found [Braio] to be a very credible witness.''

This story ran on page A16 of the Boston Globe on 7/13/2002.
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