Church Evicts a Group of Clergy-Abuse Victims
Regular Meetings had been Held at The Catholic Facility For 5 Years

By Jeff Diamant
The Star-Ledger [Mendham]
June 9, 2007

A Catholic church in Mendham has rescinded permission for a group of victims of clergy sex abuse to meet on its property, after letting the group gather there for five years.

The pastor says St. Joseph's needs the meeting space for its new pre-kindergarten and that the state chapter of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests can no longer meet on church grounds.

But SNAP members say the decision to evict is troubling given the abuse some members suffered there decades ago when James Hanley was the pastor. They say there is ample space on campus for SNAP to meet one night a month.

Hanley, the worst known perpetrator of clergy sex abuse in New Jersey, was a priest at five churches, including St. Joseph, from 1962 through 1986. At least one parishioner from four of those churches has accused him of abuse. In 2005, the Paterson Diocese settled with 21 of Hanley's accusers for nearly $5 million.

After several victims came forward with allegations in 2002, the church, under its former pastor, Msgr. Kenneth Lasch, let victims meet at its Pax Christi Center. In 2004, the church let them establish a small memorial to sex-abuse victims, just 150 feet from the rectory where they were abused.

"Ironically, it is this same parish that was transformed in 2002 from a serial child molester's hunting ground to a healing center," said Mark Crawford, co-director of SNAP in New Jersey. "If (Paterson) Bishop Serratelli truly supported survivors of clergy sexual abuse, this eviction notice would have never been served."

Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for Bishop Serratelli, said the room SNAP had used for meetings "needs to be set up as a pre-K, not a mixed-use room."

She said parish organizations get precedence for space on church grounds, and that the pastor, Msgr. Joseph Anginoli, decided he could not find time or space to accommodate SNAP.

"It has nothing to do with what a particular organization does," she said. "The pastor of the parish has the right to use his space as he sees fit, to accommodate the parish ministries."

"SNAP chapters throughout the state of New Jersey meet in places other than Catholic schools. Other Catholic organizations meet in places other than Catholic parishes or schools," she said.

A letter by Anginoli to a SNAP officer reads: "As you are aware, the Pax Christi House will become our Pre-K this fall, which will exclude it from being a viable meeting place. As space is limited, it will be necessary for your group to seek another venue to meet. This is effective immediately, as renovations will commence shortly to ready the building for our children."

Patricia Serrano, who received the letter as an outreach coordinator for SNAP New Jersey, and whose son is a Hanley victim, said all SNAP needs is space for chairs during meetings. She said she told a parish employee SNAP could be flexible with meeting times, and had been told it probably could be accommodated. But then on Thursday she received the letter from Anginoli.

Mark Serrano, her son, accused the church of "turning its back on a group of survivors, some of whom came to these meetings because they want to reunite with the church. Some of these guys had a real hard time coming back onto church grounds. ... Now they've kicked us out."


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