|Church-Run Trial Clears Priest on Sex Abuses
Ex-Pastor Expected to Return to Ministry
By Jeff Diamant
The Star-Leder [Newark]
June 12, 2007
After five years on leave from Catholic ministry, a priest from the Newark Archdiocese who was once team chaplain for the New York Giants has been acquitted in a church-run trial on charges that he sexually abused minors.
The Rev. William Dowd, 67, will return to ministry soon, possibly at a hospital or college but probably not at a parish, said James Goodness, spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese.
Dowd spoke Friday with Archbishop John J. Myers and was told of the decision, Goodness said.
Dowd stepped down as pastor of St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church in Ho-Ho-Kus, in Bergen County, in April 2002, after a man from Mississippi came forward with an allegation that Dowd molested him repeatedly while he was a teenager living in New Jersey.
Criminal statutes of limitation had expired, but an archdiocese review board found the charge credible enough to warrant a church-run trial. In the meantime, a second accuser came forward. Dowd's trial was held in January 2005, and the final results came back Friday, Goodness said.
Neither Dowd nor his accusers could be reached for comment yesterday. Goodness would not discuss details of the accusations.
Like all canonical trials, Dowd's was conducted behind closed doors before a panel of three canon lawyers serving as judges. There was no jury or traditional cross-examination.
Dowd's former parishioners at St. Luke's, where he worked from 1997 to 2002, learned about his acquittal at announcements before Mass over the weekend, and praised him yesterday as a popular and charismatic priest.
Parishioners applauded in their pews, said Gloria Kane, who was at St. Luke's on Sunday morning, and who said plans are now under way to belatedly celebrate the 40th anniversary of Dowd's ordination.
"I've heard from people from Florida, Colorado, people all over," Kane said. "They're ecstatic. We're all sorry that it took so long for the resolution to come through."
"We were praying and praying and praying" for his exoneration, said Viola Coughlan, 68, of West Orange. "He married my daughter and her husband. ... We had Jewish people at that wedding and they said if they were to change religions, they would do it because of Father Dowd."
Dowd was ordained in the archdiocese in 1967. He worked at Immaculate Conception in Montclair until 1976, and then was a chaplain at Bergen County institutions including Bergen Pines County Hospital until 1991. Then he became associate executive director of CYO Youth Ministries in the archdiocese. Then, in 1997, he went to St. Luke's in Ho-Ho-Kus. He served as chaplain for the Giants football team in the 1990s.
Jeff Diamant may be reached at email@example.com or (973) 392-1547.
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