Protestors demand Fairfield U. aid Haitian sex-abuse victims
Published 1:18 pm, Thursday, September 2, 2010
Forty dollars a day. That's all Fairfield University graduate Paul Kendrick is asking his alma mater to come up with. That amount, he said, would provide $2 daily for each of the 20 or so sexual-abuse victims of Douglas Perlitz, a fellow Fairfield U. grad once lauded by the school for the charity he founded to help homeless boys in Haiti.
That charity -- Project Pierre Toussaint in Cap Haitien -- is where Perlitz recently admitted he perpetrated the abuse, a school that was supposed to be a haven for street youths in the improverished nation. Perlitz pleaded guilty in federal court last month and admitted to having sex with one underage male. However, he did not dispute prosecution claims that he abused at least eight boys. The school has been shuttered and the victims abandoned, Kendrick said.
Kendrick and several supporters on Wednesday morning stood at Fairfield University's North Benson Road entrance, handing out a leaflet to motorists entering and leaving the campus on the first day of classes for the new school year.
That $2 for each Haitian boy every day, he said, would provide them with a daily ration of rice, beans and spaghetti.
Louis Elneus, a Haiti native who runs his own non-profit group providing textbooks in his homeland, was there to support Kendricks. Legally, Elneus admits, Fairfield University probably has no obligation to help Perlitz' victims.
"But there is a moral obligation here," Elneus said. "What about helping those kids?" If the university had no problem promoting Perlitz and his program, and by extension the college itself, they need to step up to the plate now, Elneus said.
In 2002, the university awarded Perlitz an honorary doctor of laws degree and he was asked to deliver the commencement address. In 2005, Perlitz received the Alumni Humanitarian Award at the annual Fairfield University Awards dinner in New York City. The Rev. Paul Carrier, who led the college's campus ministry, actively raised funds for Project Pierre Toussaint and served on its board of directors. Carrier's whereabouts are unknown now.
Helen McGonigle, like Kendrick and Perlitz, is a graduate of the university. She said she was also abused by a member of the clergy. The actions of the college, she said, don't jibe with the Jesuit philosophy of service to others that she was taught in her four years there.
"I still have my paper I wrote for Tom Regan," she said. Regan, once a professor at the college, later became the Jesuit Provincial. It was Regan who ordered Carrier to resign as chairman of the Haiti Fund, and resign his teaching position in Greenwich. The paper that she wrote for Regan, according to McGonigle, was about St. Thomas Aquinas' belief that a person should work for the common good and never leave anyone behind. "That's what I learned, and that's what I believe in," she said.
Kendrick recalled a visit in January to Haiti and the closed school. "We were walking by a room, you could still see the cots," he said. In a corner, was a private room, Kendrick said. Through an interpreter, former students told Kendrick that Perlitz would come to the dorm room at night, using the light from his watch to illuminate his path. "They'd pretend they were asleep," Kendrick said the boys told him.
"Fairfield University's links to this project are extensive," he added.
Kendrick originally asked to make his plea standing in front of the school's Campus Center.
"This is the first day of class for the fall semester and the university community's responsibility is to focus on opening day activities and the students' educational experience," according to a statement released by Fairfield U spokeswoman Nancy Habetz. "The university continues to work with the Haiti Fund Board and others to find ways to reopen the facilities in Cap Haitien and help support the children who have been affected by this tragic situation."