Clock Runs out on Charging Priests

Journal News (Westchester County, NY)
June 19, 2002

Evidence also falls short, the Rockland D.A. says

Steve Lieberman

The Journal News

Too much time has passed for the Rockland County District Attorney's Office to consider prosecuting four priests accused of sexual misconduct when they served in the county.

In addition to the statute of limitations having long since passed, District Attorney Michael Bongiorno said yesterday, the evidence given to his office by the Archdiocese of New York was extremely sketchy.

The office continues to review a complaint involving a fifth priest based on information released by the archdiocese, Bongiorno said.

Bongiorno declined to discuss the details of the five cases or how far back the allegations dated. He said the information was insufficient to file charges.

"Every case we looked at was beyond the statute of limitations concerning allegations in complaints of acts in Rockland," said Bongiorno. "Some of them may have faced allegations elsewhere. We reviewed what we received."

The Archdiocese of New York released information in early April about past allegations against dozens of priests to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau. His office sent the information to suburban prosecutors where the alleged acts took place.

The archdiocese released the complaints after allegations of priests sexually abusing minors were made public. Several priests accused of sexual misconduct had been transferred from their churches to other parishes by the archdiocese, whose top officials were aware of the allegations.

Prosecutors also demanded any evidence or complaints of such abuse that the archdiocese had never brought to the attention of law enforcement.

In April, the archdiocese removed six priests from their posts, including the Rev. John Gallant of St. Joan of Arc in Sloatsburg.

Gallant was accused of having sex with a woman, who later said she was underage during their affair in the 1980s. Gallant told parishioners after he was removed by the archdiocese that he had been accused of sexual impropriety with an 18-year-old woman, but he said he had "never abused a minor boy or girl in my entire life."

Gallant was not one of the names given to Bongiorno's office because his actions did not occur in Rockland.

The Rev. William Burke, a well-regarded Salesian priest who until recently worked at the Marian Shrine in Stony Point, was accused in a lawsuit filed in April of molesting a 14-year-old boy in 1987 at a boarding school in Tampa, Fla. The suit names the Vatican as a defendant, alleging that the entire Roman Catholic Church made a cover-up of the abuse possible.

One priest on the list given to Bongiorno was the Rev. Patrick Quigley, who already was convicted of sexual misconduct. He pleaded guilty in December 1994 to a misdemeanor charge after admitting he had offered several young boys money for sex in Haverstraw village. He was sentenced to probation and the archdiocese sent him to a rehabilitation center for alcoholism in Maryland.

Bongiorno was one of several prosecutors who criticized the archdiocese for withholding the information. He supports a pending state law mandating that information involving the abuse of children be turned over to police or prosecutors.


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