Civil Lawsuit Filed Against Connecticut Priest Accused of Child Sex Abuse

A man who says he was sexually abused by a priest while growing up in Bristol is taking his case to court.

A civil lawsuit filed in New Haven Superior Court names the priest, Reverend Gregory Altermatt, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. It claims sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s and 1980s when the plaintiff, now in his 40s, was 7 to 15 years old.

Altermatt has not been charged with any crimes.

The lawsuit states the church should have known that Altermatt posed a danger to minors with whom he had contact.

“It’s not unusual that at this time of life an abuse victim finally says I can’t take this anymore,” Attorney Thomas McNamara said of his client, Matthew Cornell.

McNamara said Altermatt became a close friend of the Cornell family that belonged to his parish, St. Matthew’s Church in Bristol.

“His mother was very religious,” McNamara said, “so much so that she actually sowed some vestments for Reverend Altermatt’s ordination.”

The abuse intensified, McNamara said, after Altermatt transferred to St. Anne Church in Waterbury. The attorney said it got even worse when the priest became a caretaker and babysitter for Cornell following his mother’s death in 1979.

“After that Altermatt was spending an increasing amount of time with Mr. Cornell and had more opportunity to abuse him,” McNamara said.

The lawsuit states Altermatt abused Cornell in the St. Anne’s rectory, his family home in Bristol, the priest’s car and Altermatt’s mother’s condo during a trip to Florida.

The prosecution of former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and other adult survivors of child sex abuse motivated Cornell to take legal action now.

The lawsuit does not specify an amount, but Cornell is seeking compensation for psychological damages.

“He’s still feeling the emotional fallout from this and betrayal of trust from this man who was like a family member and took him under his wing,” McNamara said.

NBC Connecticut reached out for comment on the allegations multiple times by email and phone to Altermatt’s attorney, but never heard back.

“It is the policy of the Archdiocese of Hartford not to comment on pending litigation,” said Maria Zone, Director of Communications for the Archidocese of Hartford. “It is important for the public to know that the Archdiocese is committed to keeping children and vulnerable adults safe through its “Safe Environment Program,” which includes background checks of all of its personnel who have regular contact with children and vulnerable adults, and VIRTUS training for adults and minors that concerns sexual abuse awareness and how to deal appropriately with such issues. The safety of children and vulnerable adults is a top priority of the Archdiocese of Hartford.”

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