Diocese: 'Insufficient Evidence' in Abuse Claim

By Dave Sommers
The Trentonian [Trenton NJ]
March 6, 2004

Responding to a former local woman's claim that a Trenton priest had sexually abused her some 30 years ago, the Diocese of Trenton issued a statement saying it didn't feel there was sufficient evidence to take any action.

The diocese went on to say that it had "spent extensive time" interviewing both the priest and the woman when she first came forward in 2002, and even submitted the case to a review board, but ultimately was unable to substantiate any of the claims.

The woman, who has not been identified by The Trentonian, claimed in her lawsuit that the priest had inappropriately touched her on several occasions around 1972, when she was 13.

The woman, in her lawsuit, had requested the priest to be removed from his current assignment of working with children.

The Trentonian is also withholding the name and location of the priest due to the sensitive nature of the allegations.

The woman, who moved out of state several years ago, is seeking an unspecified amount of money for psychological injuries she said she suffered both during and after she realized what had occurred.

The woman said she could not even remember the alleged assaults until a few years ago when she was listening to a similar case in which a woman was sexually abused by a priest.

It was then, she claims, that she spoke with a memory therapist, who helped her to recall what had allegedly occurred.

The woman's attorney, Marc Fliedner, of Kamensky, Cohen and Associates, said his client first contacted church officials in 2002, two years before filing the suit, but became disappointed with the diocese's lack of serious response.

The church countered that claim, insisting it had recommended the woman receive counseling.

The diocese flew the woman in from out of state, at diocese expense, so she could tell her story to the Diocesan Review Board, a spokesperson said.

The board, which is made up of experts in behavioral sciences, law enforcement and social work, spent extensive time with the woman and the accused priest to determine what, if anything, happened 30 years ago.

"After considering the facts, the board concluded that there was insufficient evidence that abuse of a minor had occurred," the diocese said.

The diocese also said it offered the woman counseling by a "counselor of her choosing," but had not heard from the subject until she filed the lawsuit last week.

The diocese went on to note that it has removed three priests in the past two years for inappropriate sexual behavior and had removed a fourth priest in 1997.

Still, the diocese said this woman's case did not "rise to that level," and it would not take any action against the accused priest.

"Decisions in matters of this nature are extraordinarily difficult," the diocese said.

"However, the review board has never hesitated to act where the facts warranted it," the diocese said.


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