Bishop Orders Probe of Priest Accused in Paterson Years Ago

By Jeff Diamant
Star-Ledger [Paterson NJ]
October 20, 2004

A longtime priest in the Paterson diocese has been placed on administrative leave from Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Clifton while the diocese investigates an accusation of inappropriate conduct made against him.

The allegation against the Rev. Andrew Perretta dates back more than 20 years, from when he was at St. Mary's Church in Paterson, said Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for the diocese.

Thompson would not specify the nature of the accusation, but said it was first investigated by a diocese "response team" in the 1990s when Bishop Frank Rodimer led the Paterson diocese. Rodimer served as bishop from 1977 until he retired in June.

In his first months on the job, Bishop Arthur Serratelli reviewed all allegations of inappropriate conduct made against priests in the Paterson diocese. Serratelli decided he wanted the accusation against Perretta investigated further and placed Perretta on leave during the investigation, Thompson said.

The diocese does not know how to contact the accuser.

"We have an old address, and we're pursuing that as part of the investigation," she said.

Perretta, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart, could not be reached for comment yesterday. A woman who answered the phone at the church referred a reporter's call to Thompson.

Scrutiny of how the Catholic Church handles accusations against priests deepened in 2002 after a national scandal revealed that many bishops had downplayed abuse allegations, shifted some accused priests from parish to parish or failed to report allegations to police.

Since 2002, dioceses across the country have reviewed old accusations. It was unclear yesterday if the Paterson diocese under Rodimer reviewed the allegation against Perretta, though at the time it was forwarded to prosecutors who determined the statute of limitations had expired, Thompson said.

Asked if new evidence had emerged to prompt Serratelli's decision on Perretta, Thompson said no.

"Different people view things and feel they want to investigate further," she said. "...It was Bishop Serratelli's interpretation that the matter should now proceed this way. He is now the bishop. It is within his purview."

The diocese also announced yesterday that Monsignor Julian Varettoni of Sacred Heart recently told his parish that an accusation had been made against him 40 years ago.

In this case, the diocesan review board instituted in 2002 concluded that "a case had not been made to advance this allegation further," according to a diocese press release.

The Paterson diocese represents 377,000 Catholics in Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties.


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