189 clergy accused in NJ — ‘Filth more pervasive than anyone imagined’
NEWARK — The names of more than 180 priests accused of sexual abuse were released Wednesday by the state's five Catholic dioceses. Church prelates say the priests and deacons had been among those credibly accused since the 1940s.
The lists were posted on the respective websites of each diocese, which oversee the parishes and churches in their jurisdictions.
Many on the lists have died, while the names of the remaining had previously been reported to police, church leaders said in letters posted on their websites.
The Archdiocese of Newark reported 63 names, the Diocese of Camden reported 57 names, the Diocese of Trenton reported 30 names, the Diocese of Paterson reported 28 names, and the Diocese of Metuchen reported 11 names. Officials expected the lists to grow.
(See the links to the lists and more information below.)
"To be certain, the darkest stain on the Catholic Church in the last century was the sexual abuse of minors by priests," Camden Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, we have all learned that this 'filth,' as Pope Benedict correctly called it, was more pervasive than anyone imagined, or even thought possible."
The act of transparency comes after the state Attorney General's Office in September established a task force to investigate sex abuse in the Catholic Church. The task force's hotline — 855-363-6548 — has received hundreds of calls from people reporting that they were abused as either children or adults.
"I am pleased to see that our task force’s grand jury investigation has prompted the dioceses to finally take some measures to hold predator priests accountable," Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Wednesday.
"While this is a positive first step towards transparency and accountability, I hope this spirit of openness continues during the course of our ongoing investigation and in response to our requests for records and information."
Several of the named clergy have been accused of molesting boys as part of their volunteer work with Boy Scout troops, according to published reports. Others named in the release were arrested, convicted or pleaded guilty and were returned to service after probation or treatment, according to court records and published reports.
Carmen Sita changed his name to Gerald Howard after being sentenced to probation and receiving treatment and began serving as a priest in the Jefferson City, Missouri, diocese where he was assigned to a parish attached to a school. He was later accused of abusing teenage boys and was convicted a second time. The Missouri diocese reported Howard is currently incarcerated.
Former priest Richard Mieliwocki, who was convicted and sentenced to probation, disappeared after starting counseling and resurfaced when he was accused of molesting teenagers as a counselor in an in-patient substance abuse program.
Another priest named Wednesday, Manuel Gallo Espinoza, was indicted by a grand jury in 2016 after admitting to at least one allegation of abuse. He fled to Ecuador, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Accounts about priests named Wednesday come from previously published reports since the Newark list doesn't include details about the allegations or when they are alleged to have happened.
The list also doesn't include religious order priests, such as Jesuits, who may serve in parishes or schools but are not ordained by the diocese. A victims' compensation fund announced this week in New Jersey also won't cover claims against religious order priests.
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who has represented alleged victims in New Jersey, said the release of names isn't enough.
"Given the vast number of priests named as sexual abusers and the span of time in which the sexual abuse took place, it is fair to state that the Archdiocese and Dioceses in New Jersey have forgotten how to be moral and kind with children," he said in a statement.
Nearly 2,000 accused clergy members and others nationwide have been identified since and including the Pennsylvania grand jury report, a review by The Associated Press found.
Archdiocese of Newark
The Newark list at healing.rcan.org includes the name of the clergy, their assignment while with the Archdiocese, how many victims they are accused of assaulting and their current status. Most of those on the list are deceased.
The list also includes former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who the pope removed from his position as cardinal last year.
In a statement, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, said the list was the result of an "extensive review" of Archdiocesan records dating back to 1940 and an effort to do what is "right and just."
Diocese of Metuchen
Metuchen's list has 10 priests and a deacon. Most involve single accusations from the 1960s and 1980s and all have been removed or have died. Two on the list are under investigation by law enforcement authorities: Thomas Ganley and Patrick Kuffner, both who have been removed from their positions.
The names on the Metuchen list were compiled after a 2002 audit by a law firm hired by the diocese to review records. The diocese says it turned over all names of clergy accused of sexual abuse to law enforcement and the Attorney General's Office. Since then, the diocese's policy is to notify law enforcement about new cases of abuse.
"We know the release of these names may inspire others who have been abused to come forward. This in fact would be a healthy outcome, as we seek to live in the light," Metuchen Bishop James F. Checchio says in a letter to lawmakers Wednesday.
"Certainly, abuse at the hands of trusted people, in these cases those who are meant to be spiritual fathers, has done untold damage to those victimized. Abuse gets power from silence and avoidance. I believe that the measures we are now taking are part of the continuing process to build a healthy and transparent culture of life in our parishes and institutions," Checchio adds. "I pray, too, that the efforts we make as Catholic Christians to protect children and prevent abuse, will resound in all areas of society – families, schools, youth and sporting organizations – in which children depend on trustworthy adults to guide them and care for their overall well-being."
Diocese of Trenton
The Trenton list has 30 names, all either dead or who have been removed from ministry. The list includes the names of the priests and their years of birth and ordination, but not which parishes or churches they belonged to.
"I greatly admire and respect the courage of those victims who have come forward," Trenton Bishop David M. O'Connell says in a letter posted Wednesday. "It is our hope that the public presentation of these names will contribute to healing the awful wounds that victims have endured at the hands of some clergy."
Diocese of Paterson
In Paterson, three priests have been credibly accused since 2002, when U.S. bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, as part of the church's attempt to overhaul policies to investigate and report abuse and train clergy. Another 24 priests and a deacon were previously accused since 1937.
Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli said the diocese has turned over reports of abuse to police in recent years after adults came forward with accusations from their childhood.
"Why release this list?" Serratelli says in his letter posted Wednesday. "The most important reason is that we recognize the great harm done by persons who were supposed to represent Christ to the world and instead committed heinous acts against minors. We also invite any additional victims who were abused by priests or deacons to come forward to civil authorities."
Diocese of Camden
The Camden list has 56 priests and a deacon, many of whom were accused of molesting teen boys in the 1970s and 1980s. The last credible report was of abuse that happened in 1995, the diocese said.
Camden Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan noted that the accused were a fraction of the "800 priests who have faithfully served the people of South Jersey since the diocese was founded in 1937."
"As to the names on the attached list, it includes those who admitted to the abuse, those who were found guilty after a trial in the church courts or the civil courts, and others against whom the evidence was so overwhelming as to be virtually unquestionable," Sullivan says in his letter posted Wednesday, adding that in some cases that the accusations were made after the priest had died.
Sullivan said four other names were not included in the list because they had been referred to the Diocesan Review Board, comprised mostly of laypeople who are not employed by the diocese, to determine the credibility of the accusations.
The Associated Press and Dan Alexander contributed to this report.