Profiles of 25 Priests Who Are Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Nancy Phillips and Craig R. McCoy
Philadelphia Inquirer
October 16, 2005

[See also Craig R. McCoy and Nancy Phillips, Camden Diocese Escapes Scrutiny; and Nancy Philips, Bishop: Sorry for 'Institutional Sin']

The Inquirer has identified 25 priests who are alleged to have abused minors in the Diocese of Camden since its inception in 1937. The list below is culled from court documents, interviews, the grand jury report on sex abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and the church's limited disclosures.

The Camden Diocese says at least 33 of its priests sexually abused children over the years. The church still has not identified all of them.

Other alleged abusers have been named in civil suits or interviews. The Inquirer list includes only those priests who have been identified by more than one accuser, or those convicted of a sex crime, defrocked or permanently removed from ministry.

One priest on the list, William C. O'Connell, did not serve as a priest in the diocese. He abused South Jersey children while serving as a priest in Rhode Island, and was accused of abusing more children while working as a volunteer in a Cape May parish.

In some of these cases, the priests and church deny the abuse.

Many of the accused priests were identified in a landmark 1994 lawsuit against the diocese filed by lawyer Stephen C. Rubino. After nine years, the diocese settled the case for $880,000, admitting no wrongdoing. A total of 23 victims shared in the 2003 settlement.

Claude J. Bender

Ordained: 1965

Allegations: A boy alleged he was abused by Bender during the 1970s.

Church response: The church, which settled the claim for $25,000 in October 1993, said it did not learn of the allegations until after the priest was dead.

Status: Bender died in 1991.

John P. Bernard


Allegations: In a lawsuit and in interviews with The Inquirer, a Tuckerton man said Bernard and other priests abused him for five years, beginning in 1972 when he was 12.

Gary Mulford, 46, one of the victims in the 1994 lawsuit, said he was abused in rectories at St. Gregory's in Magnolia, St. Peter's in Merchantville and Our Lady Star of the Sea in Cape May. He said Bernard tried to rape him as they lay naked in bed with another priest. Mulford's case was part of the 2003 settlement.

In court documents, Bernard denied the charges.

Two brothers who also said Bernard abused them received a $50,000 settlement in 1993.

Church response: Bernard left parish ministry in 1977 at his request for a job as a military chaplain. He retired in 1992 and has been permanently removed from ministry.

Status: Bernard, now 75 and living in Elkton, Md., did not respond to a request for comment.

Henry S. Blaszczynski

Ordained: 1941

Allegations: A woman alleged in 1993 that she was abused as a girl in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The church settled her lawsuit, paying $176,000.

Church response: The church said it did not learn of the allegations until after his death.

Status: Blaszczynski died in 1986 at age 70.

Gerald P. Clements

Ordained: 1970

Allegations: Clements abused a 12-year-old boy at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Westville Grove in the early 1970s, according to a Rubino lawsuit, settled by the church with a $45,000 payment. According to Rubino, Clements admitted the abuse during a joint therapy session with the victim.

Church response: After learning of the allegation in 1993, the church placed Clements in "restricted ministry" in nursing homes.

Status: Clements, 64, was later permanently removed from ministry.

Norman T. Connelly

Ordained: 1965

Allegations: Two brothers said in a lawsuit that Connelly abused them when they were altar boys at St. Peter's Church in Merchantville.

John Depman said that when he was a teenager, Connelly took him and other altar boys to a Philadelphia bathhouse, where they played volleyball and basketball in the nude. He and his brother Mark say Connelly also showed them pornography.

The brothers, who also accused three other priests of abuse, shared in the $880,000 settlement. A second suit alleging abuse by Connelly was settled in 1993 for $25,000.

Through his lawyer, Connelly has denied any wrongdoing.

Church response: The diocese in 1993 suspended Connelly from ministry.

Status: Connelly, 68, is permanently removed from ministry.

John P. ConnorJohn P. Connor

Ordained: 1962

Allegations: He was arrested in 1984 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old boy during a weekend trip to Cape May. At the time, Connor was a theology teacher and golf coach at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken.

Connor, who admitted the abuse, was placed in a special court program under which his arrest was expunged.

Church response: After Connor's arrest, then-Camden Bishop George H. Guilfoyle transferred Connor to the Pittsburgh Diocese, then headed by Bishop Anthony J. Bevilacqua. A church memo called the transfer a "tradition of bishops helping bishops."

When Bevilacqua took over the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Connor followed him. Bevilacqua told his new pastor in Conshohocken that Connor needed to be near his sick mother - saying nothing about sex abuse.

At that parish, Connor singled out a boy for attention and gifts. The boy's mother became convinced that Connor had molested her son, though the boy denied it.

A Philadelphia grand jury said Bevilacqua had been "untruthful" when he claimed a lack of knowledge about Connor's past.

After learning that a lawsuit was in the works, the grand jury said, Bevilacqua shipped Connor back to the Camden Diocese in 1993. There, church officials placed him in "restricted ministry," limiting his contact with children by making him a hospital chaplain in Bridgeton.

Status: Connor, now 71, was removed from ministry in 2002.

Charles J. Davis

Ordained: 1962

Allegations: Davis abused a male victim. Details of the abuse could not be obtained. He served at St. Luke's parish in Stratford and St. Agnes in Blackwood between 1963 and 1965, before being transferred to the Diocese of Trenton in 1966. He later served as a priest in Brazil and as an Army chaplain.

Church response: The Camden Diocese wrote the victim in 2003 to tell him that Davis had been removed from ministry.

Status: A diocesan letter said the review board had asked the Vatican to defrock Davis. Upon an order from the Vatican, a church tribunal is now judging the allegation.

Michael H. D'AmicoMichael H. D'Amico

Ordained: 1964

Allegations: A 54-year-old man says D'Amico repeatedly abused him when he was 13 and the priest was assigned to Most Holy Redeemer Church in Westville Grove in 1964.

Church response: D'Amico was removed from ministry in May after the man told the church about the abuse. The church contacted Gloucester County prosecutors, but the statute of limitations had long ago run out.

Status: Permanently removed.

Francis J. Flemming

Ordained: 1961

Allegations: An Absecon man told The Inquirer that Flemming and two other priests abused him for several years, beginning in 1960 when he was 12.

When he was 16, James J. Smith said, Flemming assaulted him at the rectory of St. Pius X Church in Cherry Hill, then threatened him with a gun and warned him to keep quiet.

In the 1994 suit, a second accuser said he met Flemming when he was a priest at Most Holy Redeemer Church. He said the priest forced him to have oral sex and assaulted him in a house at the Jersey Shore when he was 14.

The diocese said it did not know that the priest had "dangerous propensities." Flemming's accusers shared in the $880,000 settlement.

Church response: The diocese said it learned of the allegations only after Flemming's death.

Status: Flemming died in 1986.

Roy Hardin

Ordained: 1964

Allegations: In an Inquirer interview, a man said he went to Hardin for help as a teenager after he had been sexually abused. Hardin then abused him at the priest's house in Brigantine in 1976.

Church response: The church permanently removed Hardin in 1994, deeming the allegation credible, Camden Diocese spokesman Andrew Walton said.

Status: Hardin, now 68, receives church-paid therapy.

Thomas Harkins

Ordained: 1971

Allegations: The parents of a young girl told the diocese in 1979 or 1980 that Harkins had abused their daughter after meeting her in religious instruction class, a lawsuit alleged.

The suit says that when the parents brought their complaint to another priest at Harkins' parish, that priest responded by threatening them with the loss of salvation. That priest died in 2000.

Harkins was sent away for treatment, with no public disclosure of the abuse allegation.

At about the same time, Harkins, assigned to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Hammonton, allegedly molested a second girl. When her parents complained to the diocese - not until 1986 - they were warned that pursuing the matter could damage the church's reputation, the suit said.

The church paid settlements in both cases, totaling $195,000.

Church response: Despite a state law requiring that police be notified of abuse against minors, the church never contacted authorities in the Harkins case, the suit said. From 1993 to 2000, Harkins was assigned to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden; the parish apparently was chosen because it had few families, Walton said. In 2000, the church made Harkins a prison chaplain.

Bishop Joseph A. Galante criticized the church's handling of the case. "It is indefensible that the complaint was not acted on appropriately," he said.

Walton added: "He should not have been returned to ministry. Law enforcement should have been notified. This would be a serious and inexcusable failure on the part of the diocesan administration to fulfill its obligation to the community."

Status :In 2002, the church permanently removed Harkins, now 59. He could not be located.

James F. HopkinsJames F. Hopkins

Ordained: 1968

Allegations: Hopkins, who served eight South Jersey parishes, pleaded guilty earlier this year to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy.

Jonathan Norton told law enforcement officials that Hopkins had abused him when the priest was assigned to St. Peter's in Merchantville, where Norton served as an altar boy. Norton, now 20, said the abuse began when he was 8 and continued until he was 10. The priest groped, fondled and had oral sex with him.

In March, Hopkins, now 62, admitted he had assaulted Norton twice; he was sentenced to five years in prison.

The boy's family sued the diocese in 1999. The church paid the family $625,000.

Church response: Hopkins was removed from ministry in 1995 after an earlier allegation of abuse. The church reported it to police.

Status: The Vatican defrocked Hopkins last year. He is serving a sentence at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, N.J.

Edward A. Igle

Ordained: 1974

Allegations: A West Berlin man said in a lawsuit and in interviews with The Inquirer that the priest assaulted him in the 1970s, beginning when he was 14 years old and continuing until he was 17.

The abuse included rape, and took place at St. Cecilia's church in Pennsauken and at a parish in Blackwood, the man said. The priest paid a $7,000 settlement, the victim said.

Church response: Igle was allowed to remain in ministry after the lawsuit was settled. He was permanently removed in 2000.

Status: Igle, 58, who now lives in Cape May, said in an e-mail that he "denied all the allegations in the lawsuit" and "assumed no guilt or liability." He said he left the priesthood in May 2000 on a voluntary "leave of absence."

Church officials said he had been removed because of abuse allegations.

John P. Kelly


Allegations: A 1994 lawsuit alleged that Kelly and other priests were part of a "sex ring" in the 1970s and 1980s at St. Gregory's in Magnolia, St. Michael's in Gibbstown, and St. Joseph's in Camden.

Six men have said in lawsuits or Inquirer interviews that Kelly molested them, some when they were as young as 10. Two sets of brothers say the priest masturbated them and had oral sex with them when they were minors.

A lawyer for Kelly's estate denied any abuse.

One accuser, John Moken, said Kelly and the Rev. Joseph Shannon would have group sex with children in church rectories. Once, Moken said in a lawsuit, Kelly and Shannon abused him and his brother in the same bed. The diocese settled his lawsuit for $25,000.

The second set of brothers and a third accuser shared in the $880,000 settlement.

Church response: Kelly was removed from ministry in 1992 after the abuse allegations were made.

Status: Kelly died in 1992.

John J. McElroy Jr.John J. McElroy Jr.


Allegations: McElroy went to jail for sexually abusing an Audubon boy between 1986 and 1988, beginning when the boy was 12.

When questioned by police, McElroy admitted he touched the boy as they showered together in the rectory of St. Francis de Sales Church in Barrington. A few weeks later, they had sex.

"I knew it was wrong," the priest said.

He later recanted, saying he had made his statements under duress.

McElroy was convicted of two counts of sexual abuse in 1989 and sentenced to five years in prison.

The boy's family later sued the diocese, which paid them $700,000 in a 1990 settlement. The suit said the priest had threatened the child into silence with guns and knives.

McElroy, now 46 and living in Kennett Square, did not respond to a request for comment.

Church response: McElroy was removed from ministry after his 1988 arrest.

Status: The Vatican defrocked him in 1993 at his request so he could marry.

Joseph McGarveyJoseph McGarvey

Ordained: 1950

Allegations: Three men say McGarvey abused them when they were boys and he was their pastor at St. Mary Magdalene's in Millville.

In a lawsuit, Terrence Smith, Gary Hayes and Steven M. Stolar said the priest gave them alcohol and presents and took them on trips to Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where he and another priest abused them. The assaults began in the late 1960s, when the boys were 12 to 15, the suit said.

Hayes, who later became a priest, reported the abuse to the diocese in 1986. A church official wrote a memo about Hayes' accusations but apparently did not forward it to his superiors. Instead, it remained in a confidential file, and then-Bishop James T. McHugh said he did not discover it until 1993, the year the three men filed their lawsuit.

The diocese settled the suit for a total of $384,000.

McGarvey, 79, who now lives in Audubon, denied the allegations in an interview.

"That was all untrue," he said. "I never did that. I was falsely accused and the bishop stood by me." He said McHugh asked him to retire but did not otherwise discipline him.

Church response: McGarvey was removed from ministry after the suit was filed in 1993.

Status: Permanently removed.

William C. O'Connell

Allegations: O'Connell, while serving as a Rhode Island priest, assaulted three South Jersey boys in the late 1960s, when they were 12 to 15.

In a lawsuit, the men said O'Connell and the Rev. Joseph McGarvey, a priest serving in Millville, took them on trips and abused them. The suit was settled in 1993 for $384,000.

In 1985, O'Connell was arrested in Rhode Island for molesting boys. Police found a "guest book used to record the sexual conquests of minors," along with whips, chains and photos of naked children. He was suspended as a priest, and went to jail in 1986.

In the early 1990s, O'Connell was accused of assaulting two teenagers while he was working as a volunteer at Our Lady Star of the Sea parish in Cape May. They shared in the 2003 settlement.

Church response: Victims said the Camden Diocese should have known of O'Connell's criminal history and barred him from working with children. Walton said the diocese didn't know of his Rhode Island conviction at the time.

O'Connell was working as a freelance photographer in Lower Township, N.J., when he was arrested for obscenity and for assaulting two boys. Police seized hundreds of photographs and videotapes of young men and boys from his home.

He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Status: O'Connell is dead.

Peter J. OsinskiPeter J. Osinski

Ordained: 1969

Allegations: Osinski, former principal of St. James High School in Carneys Point, was convicted of sexual assault after admitting that he had molested a Camden County boy for seven years, beginning in 1983 when the child was 6. Osinski assaulted the boy at a beach house on Long Beach Island.

The boy went to authorities in 1997 and the priest was arrested. Osinski was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Before taking the job in Carneys Point, Osinski, now 62, was vice principal of Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill.

Church response: Osinski was removed from ministry at the time of his arrest.

Status: He was defrocked in 2003.

Timothy PisikTimothy Pisik

Ordained: 1974

Allegations: In 1991, Pisik pleaded guilty to sexual assault after admitting that he had assaulted a 16-year-old in Cumberland County two years earlier. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and served nearly five.

Pisik, now 58 and living in Syracuse, N.Y., said he lives on a small church pension and expects to be defrocked soon.

Church response: When the church learned of the abuse allegations, it alerted law enforcement officials, who arrested the priest in 1990. Pisik was removed from ministry after his arrest.

Status: The diocese has asked the Vatican to defrock Pisik.

Dennis Rigney

Ordained: 1942

Allegations: In a lawsuit, two brothers, James J. and John F. Smith, said Rigney molested them when they were minors and attended St. Pius X Church in Cherry Hill. The abuse took place between 1963 and 1978, beginning when the boys were 12 and 16, the suit said. Smith also says he was abused by two other priests.

In court documents, Rigney denied the allegations.

The brothers were among the 23 people who shared in the 2003 settlement.

Church response: Diocese leaders and a review board reviewed the allegations against Rigney and found they were "not credible," Walton said.

Status: Rigney died in 1992.

Msgr. Philip T. RigneyMsgr. Philip T. Rigney

Ordained: 1949

Allegations: Two brothers told The Inquirer and testified in court that the priest, Dennis Rigney's brother, assaulted them hundreds of times in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Robert A. Young Jr. said the priest first attacked him when he was 9 and on a camping trip to Disney World. The abuse started with fondling and quickly escalated to masturbation and oral sex, he said. The assaults continued for nine years, Young said, in rectories in Camden and Barrington, on family vacations and on trips to the priest's Shore house in Beach Haven West. Young died earlier this year.

Young's brother, Philip, who was named after the priest, said Rigney molested him more than 150 times, beginning when he was 12.

At the time, Rigney was serving as vicar of the clergy, a top post. He also held other senior positions, including director of vocations - in charge of recruiting new priests and nuns. He also served as secretary to two bishops.

After the boys' mother reported the abuse to Bishop Guilfoyle in 1984, the bishop confronted Rigney and wrote in a memo that Rigney "did not deny" the assaults.

According to the victims' mother, Guilfoyle promised her he would remove Rigney and send him for counseling.

But the priest received no counseling. He was transferred from St. Francis de Sales in Barrington to Our Lady Queen of Peace in Pitman before retiring in 1986. He later went to work part time at a church in South Florida, carrying a letter of recommendation from Bishop James T. McHugh, Guilfoyle's successor.

Guilfoyle died in 1991; McHugh died in 2000.

McHugh "apparently was unaware of the allegations" against Rigney when he recommended him to the Florida Diocese, a spokesman said.

Before abusing the Youngs, the suit says, Rigney raped another teenager, a runaway whom the priest invited to live with him at St. Joseph's Pro-Cathedral in Camden.

In 2002, Rigney testified that he did nothing wrong, insisting that he never admitted any attacks to Guilfoyle. The victims shared in the 2003 settlement.

Church response: After the lawsuit was filed in 1994, McHugh revoked permission for Rigney to say Mass in Florida. The priest nevertheless continued doing so until 2002, according to Florida church officials.

Status: Rigney, now 88, lives in West Palm Beach and is permanently suspended from ministry.

Msgr. Augustine J. Seidenberg

Ordained: 1948

Allegations: Five women - all sisters and cousins - said in a lawsuit that the priest repeatedly assaulted them when they were girls, holding each of them on his lap, fondling their genitals and masturbating as he heard their confessions at churches in Brigantine and Cape May.

The women shared in the 2003 settlement.

Church response: Seidenberg was suspended after the lawsuit was filed in 1994.

Status: Seidenberg, now 83, could not be located for comment, but in court filings he has denied any wrongdoing. He has been permanently suspended from ministry.

Joseph E. Shannon

Ordained: 1961

Allegations: Three men say Shannon raped or assaulted them when they were altar boys decades ago.

Stephen Palo said Shannon first attacked him when he was 12, awakening him in the bedroom of his Blackwood home and performing oral sex on him. Palo said he and Shannon continued to have sexual contact for 15 years. Shannon acknowledged under oath that he had sex with Palo, but claimed Palo had initiated it when he was 18.

Palo sued the diocese and got a $100,000 settlement.

In another suit, John Depman of Belair, Md., who also says he and his brother were victimized by other priests, testified that Shannon sodomized him at his family's vacation home in Brigantine in the late 1960s when he was 12 or 13.

Another accuser, Stephen M. Johnson, said the priest plied him with alcohol and assaulted him when he was 12 in the rectory of St. Joseph's in Camden in 1971. Depman and Johnson shared in the 2003 settlement.

Through his lawyer, Shannon, now 78, denied any wrongdoing.

Church response: Shannon went on sick leave in 1990 and never returned to ministry.

Status: Shannon is permanently suspended.

William Titmas

Ordained: 1963

Allegations: A Tuckerton man said in a lawsuit and in interviews with The Inquirer that Titmas assaulted him for years, beginning when he was 12 or 13.

Mulford said Titmas and two other priests attacked him in parish rectories at St. Gregory's in Magnolia, St. Peter's in Merchantville, and Our Lady Star of the Sea in Cape May. He said the abuse took place between 1972 and 1977. In court papers, Titmas denied the abuse.

Church response: When the lawsuit was filed, Titmas was permanently removed from ministry.

Status: Titmas died last year at age 69.

Patrick WeaverPatrick Weaver

Ordained: 1963

Allegations: Church officials first learned Weaver was an abuser in 1966, a lawsuit says, but took no action, clearing the way for future attacks.

In that 1966 case, a boy was abused after he went to Weaver, then serving at St. John in Collingswood, for advice on becoming a priest, the suit says. The boy's mother quickly complained, but says she was threatened with excommunication unless she kept quiet.

Weaver was reassigned to St. Joan of Arc in Camden, the suit says, where he went on to abuse other teenage boys.

A lawyer says the 1966 complaint about Weaver was brought directly to Guilfoyle's top aide, Auxiliary Bishop James L. Schad. Both Guilfoyle and Schad are now dead.

Weaver was arrested in 1985 and 1986 and charged with sex crimes, including one involving a St. Joan of Arc boy.

Church response: Weaver stopped serving as a priest after his arrests and was placed on probation.

Status: Weaver, 70, who has been permanently suspended from the priesthood, did not respond to a request for comment.


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