Diocese Moves to Protect Children
New Office Will Work to Both Investigate, Prevent Abuse

By John A. Zukowski
The Express-Times [Metuchen NJ]
September 3, 2003

METUCHEN -- The Metuchen Diocese has opened an office devoted solely to handling sex abuse crimes, diocese officials said Tuesday.

Lawrence Nagle, a former sex crimes investigator for the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, started yesterday as director of the diocese's Office of Child and Youth Protection.

The office will work on disciplinary hearings against clergy charged with sexual abuse. It will also help implement the diocese's education program on identifying and preventing abuse.

However, the critical part of Nagle's job will be leading the response to initial abuse complaints.

"When you get those initial calls, the critical period is what occurs during those first moments," Nagle said. "With my law enforcement background, I know what should and shouldn't be done."

For 25 years, Nagle worked in the Middlesex County office specializing in investigating sex crimes, child abuse and domestic violence.

"We in the diocese believe that we are not the most capable in investigating such matters," said Diocese General Secretary Ronald C. Rak. "We felt it was better to bring someone on board who has spent most of his career working in that area."

The establishment of the office may be first of its kind in the United States, diocese spokeswoman Jo Ann Ward said.

"We're not aware of any other dioceses that have such an office," Ward said. "But we don't want to say that this is the first one of its kind because we don't know for sure."

Many American dioceses are working on ways to respond to the abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church. Dioceses have set up educational programs about sex abuse. Or they have installed staff members to prevent delays in investigating abuse complaints.

But Nagle's appointment centralizes those efforts in a single person who has experience investigating sex abuse crimes. That will speed up investigations on sex abuse claims and help prosecute crimes, diocese officials said.

"From my perspective this is significant because when people have reason to believe a crime has occurred they are connecting with someone whose experience and background is in law enforcement," Rak said.

Parishes in the Metuchen diocese will soon receive information about how to contact Nagle by phone or the Internet.

The Metuchen diocese covers parishes representing nearly 500,000 Catholics in four New Jersey counties, including Warren and Hunterdon.

Nagle is a South Amboy, N.J., resident who was lieutenant of county investigators and supervisor of the sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence and Megan's Law units in the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. He is a graduate of the Burlington Police Academy.


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