Spokesman in Abuse Scandal Is Named Bishop of Camden

By Matthew C. McCue
New York Times [Camden NJ]
March 24, 2004

ishop Joseph A. Galante, who served as the national spokesman in the Roman Catholic Church's effort to deal with sexual abuse by priests, was appointed yesterday as bishop of the Camden Diocese, which has its own history of costly settlements for sexual abuse. A native of Philadelphia, Bishop Galante, 65, was appointed by the pope after serving as coadjutor bishop of Dallas since 2000.

Bishop Galante was the national spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that set guidelines in 2002 for dealing with claims of sexual abuse by priests. The guidelines included a "one-strike" rule that removed clergymen who committed sexual abuse.

In Camden, Bishop Galante will lead a diocese of 450,000 that was significantly affected by the priest abuse scandal. The diocese paid $5.7 million in legal settlements for sexual abuse cases mostly occurring from the 1960's through the 80's.

"I'm sure his background played a role in the decision," said Barbara Polesir, director of the South Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Ms. Polesir said that while individuals in her group were wary of the appointment, they decided as a group that they would take a diplomatic approach, welcoming the bishop. She specifically cited as troubling Bishop Galante's statement to a newspaper in 2002 that a Dallas church, and not the diocese, was at fault in a case in which two men pleaded guilty to sexually abusing young girls.

The director of the survivors network in Philadelphia, John Salveson, said in a phone interview that the organization was eager to work with Bishop Galante and thought he had shown "small signs of promise" while in Dallas. He cited in particular Bishop Galante's criticism in 2002 that Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas had been slow to respond to an accusation of sexual abuse by a priest. Bishop Galante did not respond to requests for an interview yesterday, but in a statement he said: "This is truly a return home for me. I was born, raised, and educated in the Delaware Valley - albeit on the other side of the river. Although I left this area in 1987, I have maintained a home at the shore since 1983. For me, South Jersey is home."

Bishop Galante succeeds Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who left last September to become bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese.


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