|Priest Abuse Probe
Quinn continues work as priest in Manlius
By Elizabeth Cooper
May 25, 2004
UTICA -- More than a year after a former Utica priest was accused of molesting a minor, the Syracuse diocese has not completed its investigation.
The pace is proving frustrating to the priest, to the accuser's attorney and to the parent of an altar boy who now serves with the Rev. James Quinn at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Manlius.
The Catholic Church's 2002 policies for protecting children and youth require that priests be removed from active duty as a precaution if a preliminary investigation finds the charges may be valid.
But because the diocese has yet to conclude its preliminary investigation, Quinn continues to perform Masses in which altar boys assist at St. Ann's.
Bishop Thomas Costello, the diocese's No. 2 official, said the church's investigation has been delayed because of a related civil case, but he declined to give further details.
In May 2003, John Zumpano, now 55, accused Quinn of sexually abusing him repeatedly in the mid-to-late 1960s when the priest served at St. Agnes Church in East Utica and as area director for the Catholic Youth Organization.
Although the civil lawsuit brought by Zumpano was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, the judge said he believed the charges had merit.
"The diocese knows he potentially molested children and still put him back in the priesthood," said Zumpano's lawyer, Frank Policelli of Utica. "He has never been cleared of the charges."
The diocese said it has set up a review board and is investigating the matter.
"The church has begun its investigation," said Costello, the diocese's vicar general. "In our justice system, people are innocent until proven guilty. He is free to continue his priestly ministry."
So far, the diocese -- which encompasses both the parish where the alleged incidents took place and the one where the priest is currently working -- has not contacted Zumpano, Policelli, or anyone who submitted an affidavit on his behalf for the court case, Policelli said.
In 2002, in response to the multiple sex abuse charges against Father John Geoghan of the Boston area, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People said the church must respond swiftly when such allegations arise.
If a preliminary investigation indicates the accusations might be valid, then the church must "relieve the alleged offender promptly of his ministerial duties," the charter states. "When the accusation has proved to be unfounded, every step possible will be taken to restore the good name of the priest."
Asked why the diocese had failed to take these steps, Costello said, "The investigation is in its preliminary stage. All of that may come to pass, but it hasn't yet."
In dismissing the civil case, state Supreme Court Justice Norman I. Siegel said he was obliged to uphold the statute of limitations, but encouraged Policelli to appeal his decision, "because I don't want anybody to get the impression that I in any way disbelieve what your client has said," court transcripts show.
An appeal is now in progress, Policelli said.
Quinn, 71, has met with the diocese's investigator, and he, too, said he wishes the process would move more quickly.
"I want to do anything I can to clear my name and my reputation," he told the Observer-Dispatch, adding that he had given a statement to the review board in January.
Quinn called Zumpano's charges "false" and "baseless." He said Zumpano had been a rising star within the CYO he had worked with. He said he helped the boy just as he had many other boys and girls in the organization.
"Many people helped him," he told the O-D. "But it all came back on me."
Those who knew Quinn and Zumpano back in the 1960s also say they want resolution.
Santo Paniccia, who worked with Quinn at the CYO in the 1960s, said he and others had "respected the heck" out of the priest, and had been shaken to the core by the allegations.
Paniccia submitted an affidavit in the case stating that Quinn had pushed Zumpano to run for office within the CYO when the young man might not have been ready and other candidates might have been better qualified. He said he had never been contacted by the diocese to discuss his statement.
"You want to know if the allegations are true because of the respect you had for that individual," he said. "They have an obligation to clear the name of Father Quinn or clear the way (for the truth to be known)."
Others who submitted affidavits include Zumpano's brother, Joseph, and John Hancock Financial Services CEO David D'Alessandro and Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Timothy Fitzgerald, both of whom knew Quinn and Zumpano from the CYO.
D'Alessandro stated that on several CYO trips, Zumpano had spent the night in the same room with Quinn, when the other boys stayed in rooms with one another, court records state. Fitzgerald's statement said the same of a CYO trip to a Chicago convention.
Joseph Zumpano stated he had confronted Quinn about the priest's close relationship with his brother and Quinn had several times said, "I love him," court documents state.
Psychiatrist Richard Zoppa, who has treated Zumpano since 2000, also submitted a statement saying he believes the abuse took place, court records state.
Whatever happened, advocates for the abused say Quinn should be suspended from ministering until he is cleared.
"If there is a shred of doubt, you remove first and then investigate," said David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
A parent at the church where Quinn now works is urging the diocese to move forward with its investigation.
"My son, I feel, may be at risk and I have no assurance from the diocese that he is not at risk," Joseph Novek wrote in an April 23 letter to Bishop James Moynihan. "I and others need to be able to make an informed decision as to whether our children are in the presence of homosexual predators."
As far as Novek knows, the St. Ann's congregation was never formally informed of the allegations against Quinn. Novek's son, Joseph, is a 13-year-old altar boy at St. Ann's.
Novek will be meeting with Moynihan this week, he said.
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