NorthJersey.com’s Ed Forbes discusses the release of names by NJ dioceses of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Paul Wood Jr. and Michael V. Pettigano and Ed Forbes, North Jersey Record
WOODLAND PARK, N.J. – New Jersey’s Roman Catholic dioceses Wednesday released the names of 188 priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children over decades – the result of an internal review that was spurred by law enforcement officials launching their own investigation.
The Newark Archdiocese’s list had a total of 63 names that included 33 priests who are deceased. Some of the priests had one victim but 33 had multiple victims. Eight of the living priests, who all abused more than one person, have been defrocked.
The Paterson Diocese put up a list of 28 clerics shortly after noon, when the state’s other dioceses also posted their own lists – Camden with 57 names, Trenton with 30 and Metuchen with 11.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the highest-ranking American Catholic official to have been removed from ministry, was the most prominent name in the Newark list. Pope Francis had accepted his resignation last year.
The Archdiocese said on the website that he was included “based on the findings of the Archdiocese of New York that allegations of abuse of a minor against then Father McCarrick were credible and substantiated.”
McCarrick was a former leader of the Metuchen diocese and the archdioceses in Newark and Washington, D.C. Church leaders in New Jersey acknowledged last year that the cardinal had been accused of sexual abuse by three adults in the state, and that two of the cases had resulted in confidential legal settlements.
Full list of names: New Jersey priests accused of sexually abusing children
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, head of the Newark Archdiocese, wrote a letter to Catholics across the region Wednesday saying that the publishing of the names was part of “an effort to do what is right and just.” He said the list was compiled during an “extensive review” of records dating to 1940.
None of the priests are currently in ministry, and all had been reported to law enforcement, he wrote.
“It is our sincerest hope that this disclosure will help bring healing to those whose lives have been so deeply violated,” he wrote in the letter, which was posted on the Archdiocese website. “We also pray that this can serve as an initial step in our efforts to help restore your trust in the leadership of the Catholic Church.”
One of the names in the Newark Archdiocese was a surprise because the archdiocese had not announced his status until Wednesday.
The Rev. Gerald Sudol, who had abused multiple victims, was listed as being permanently removed from ministry. He had been cleared of a prior allegation, but he stepped down last year from his position as reverend in residence at Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church in Jersey City after an accuser came forward.
Shortly after the archdiocese acknowledged it was looking into the allegation, a new accuser came forward.
Ed Hanratty, a native of Ridgefield Park, said that Sudol’s sexual misconduct was well-known among parishioners of the St. Francis of Assisi Church in Ridgefield Park, where the priest served from 1986 to 1994.
Hanratty, who was an altar server at the church, recalled Sudol giving him bearhugs, open-mouthed kisses and trying to force his tongue into his mouth.
“I don’t know why he was let back around children in the first place,” Hanratty said last year. “Of all the parishes in the archdiocese why was he sent to one with a school?”
The Archdiocese listed Sudol as having abused multiple people.
The lists, which are being released individually by the state’s five dioceses, also were expected to include priests who were taken out of ministry over the last 15 years or so after a scandal that led to changes in the way the church deals with child abuse. It was anticipated that some of the priests – but not all of them – would be widely known because their removal from ministry was made public in the aftermath of that scandal.
Many of the priests on the list were notified in advance that it was to be published Wednesday.
New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses are releasing lists of names of priests accused of sex abuse.
Michael V. Pettigano and William Lamb, North Jersey Record
The release of names marks the culmination of a statewide internal review of abuse cases by Catholic dioceses that Tobin announced last year.
His announcement came after the state’s attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, launched a state investigation into the abuse of children by members of the clergy. That probe was spurred by a similar review in Pennsylvania in which a grand jury identified 300 abusive priests and 1,000 victims.
The Catholic Church in the United States changed the way it deals with reports of child sex abuse in 2002 when bishops came to an agreement known as the Dallas Charter. They agreed to remove from ministry any priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a child, and they established review boards to examine allegations and determine whether they were credible.
All of the priests whose names were released Wednesday by the Newark Archdiocese had been ordained by 1999, three years before the charter was signed.
Last year, the church again found itself in the midst of a scandal, facing renewed scrutiny after allegations of sexual abuse were made against McCarrick.
“‘The revelations of clergy sexual abuse of minors throughout this past year have provoked feelings of shock, anger, shame, and deep sorrow throughout our Catholic community,” Tobin wrote in his letter. “Victims, their families, and the faithful are rightfully outraged over the abuses perpetrated against minors. Additionally, the failure of Church leadership to immediately remove suspected abusers from ministry is particularly reprehensible.”
Tobin and other Catholic leaders in New Jersey had declined Tuesday to provide details about the release of the names or to indicate how many priests would be included. A victim’s advocate and former priest from Newark said he knew of more than 70 clerics in the Newark Archdiocese who had been accused of abusing children.
Last week, the vicar general of the Metuchen diocese, the Rev. Timothy Christy, wrote in a letter addressed to “all priests” that the state’s Catholic dioceses “will each release the names of priests who have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors.”
“Pastors may want to provide an opportunity for parishioners to gather and voice their questions, concerns, hurt and anger,” he wrote.
Christy told the Metuchen priests that they would receive a pastoral letter from the head of the diocese, Bishop James Checchio, and that it should be made available to parishioners attending services. He also wrote that priests would be provided with “talking points and answers to expected questions.”
When he announced the review last year, Tobin said that victims’ compensation funds and counseling programs would be established in each of the state’s dioceses. Details of the compensation programs were released Monday.
Last year, as a new scandal centering on McCarrick enveloped the church, two New Jersey priests, including Sudol, stepped down from positions in parishes in Jersey City and Westwood when the Newark Archdiocese opened reviews into allegations of sexual misconduct that had been made against them. One of the priests was accused of sexually assaulting an adult and was not on the list released by the Archdiocese.
And new allegations against order priests in New Jersey came to light.
In July, a letter to alumni and others affiliated with the Delbarton School in Morris Township said 13 monks from St. Mary’s Abbey, which runs the school, had been accused of sexually abusing 30 people over the last three decades.
That letter was sent after NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey published a story about St. Mary’s settling five lawsuits involving its monks, with other suits pending.
Follow Abbott Koloff on Twitter: @AbbottKoloff
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