Accused Priest from N.J. Loses Post

By June Kim
Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
February 22, 2004

A Catholic priest assigned to three Diocese of Metuchen parishes in the 1990s was removed Friday from his post in Charlotte, N.C., over allegations of sexual abuse during his tenure in New Jersey.

The Rev. Gregory Littleton left Our Lady of Assumption Roman Catholic Church after officials from the Diocese of Charlotte, long aware of the accusations of abuse, were notified by the Metuchen Diocese that Littleton's case would appear in a nationwide list of credible abuse allegations due to be released Friday by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"The Charter for Protection of Young People basically says you can't be in ministry if your name is on this list," said David Hains, acting spokesman of the Charlotte Diocese.

"In effect, this man has to be removed," said Hains.

Littleton, 42, could not be reached yesterday at his Charlotte home.

A story in the Charlotte Observer quoted him as saying he was unaware until Friday of any allegations that he sexually abused minors, and he rebutted them.

Littleton worked in parishes in Sayreville, Metuchen and the Peapack/Far Hills area before moving to North Carolina in 1997.

Hains said the Charlotte Diocese was aware of the New Jersey allegations when Littleton came to his state.

After serving in two smaller parishes in the western part of the state, Littleton was transferred to Our Lady of Assumption.

In 2002, at the height of the nationwide scandal over the church cover-up of abusive priests, Bishop Paul Bootkoski of the Metuchen Diocese ordered a review of the more than 990 files of all priests, deacons and seminarians in his diocese, resulting in referrals to various prosecutor's offices, according to Ronald Rak, general secretary of the Metuchen Diocese.

The diocese includes Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties.

"That final review resulted in 29 allegations involving 18 priests," Rak said.

Although the Metuchen Diocese deemed the allegations against Littleton credible, the Middlesex County prosecutor lacked the testimony of any victims to file criminal charges against Littleton, said Rak.

No allegations have been made against the priest during his time in Charlotte, Hains said.

The Charlotte Diocese confirmed it received information of an investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office in October 2002, but the administrator who was leading Charlotte at the time took no action, Hains said.

Rak said: "We had reported information to the prosecutor and, given the substance of what we had reported, that was up to the diocese whether or not the father would remain in the ministry. In no way in our communication to Charlotte did we suggest that Father Littleton was in good standing."

Last week, Bootkoski made a phone call to Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis in light of the upcoming release of the findings from the sexual abuse survey.

Jugis removed Littleton from his post after learning the priest was among those on the list, Rak and Hains said.


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