N.J. Dioceses Appoint Abuse Report Liaisons

By Tom Quigley
Express-Times [New Jersey]
July 25, 2003

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Sexual abuse complaints against church officials can now be reported to a specific contact person in all five Roman Catholic dioceses in New Jersey.

A similar system is in place in the Diocese of Allentown.

The designation of liaisons within each New Jersey and Pennsylvania diocese is part of guidelines mandated by the church's national charter. Under the guidelines, victims can contact a designated church leader directly to report alleged abuse and request counseling.

The liaison in the Diocese of Metuchen -- which includes Hunterdon and Warren counties -- is the diocese's general secretary for administration and legal services, Ronald C. Rak.

The New Jersey dioceses plan to display the guidelines on church and school bulletin boards.

Each New Jersey diocese has designated a response officer to handle complaints and an assistance coordinator to arrange counseling.

The assistance coordinator in the Diocese of Allentown is Barbara Murphy, said diocesan spokesman Matt Kerr.

Both Kerr and a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Metuchen said church policy now requires immediate notification of law-enforcement authorities of alleged abuse.

Diocese of Metuchen spokeswoman Joanne Ward said information about the assistance available to alleged victims has been available on the diocesan Web site for months.

The Newark Archdiocese posted the church guidelines on its Web site last week, and the Paterson Archdiocese plans to follow suit shortly.

Mark Serrano -- a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests -- said the church needs to go further.

He said far too many victims tried to report abuse to the church and were not heard.

"And so our advice is to report it to the police first and seek comfort and support from us," he said.

Serrano is one of a dozen alleged victims of James T. Hanley, a former pastor of the Church of St. Joseph in Mendham.

Serrano described the church's efforts as "a process embedded in the culture of the church leadership."

The five New Jersey dioceses will review the current policy a year from now to measure its effectiveness.


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