|Parishioners Back Their Priest
By Dave Canfield
October 26, 2009
WYNANTSKILL — By and large, parishioners at St. Jude the Apostle Church appear to be sticking by Rev. Salvatore “Sam” Rodino, their pastor of four years now on administrative leave following allegations he sexually abused a minor 27 years ago.
“I don’t believe a word of it,” said parishioner William Millette as he arrived for services Sunday morning. “That man has done more for this church in the last four years than anyone before him.”
At the conclusion of both Sunday Masses, a letter from Bishop Howard J. Hubbard was read to the church by Rev. Ronald Menty, who handled the weekend’s services at the Wynantskill church. Hubbard, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, explained to parishioners in the letter that he took the action after finding “reasonable grounds” to believe the allegations of abuse, alleged to have occurred at Albany’s Blessed Sacrament Parish in the early 1980s.
Rodino has denied any inappropriate conduct, according to the diocese.
“The Albany Diocese has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of minors by clergy,” Hubbard’s letter reads. “No priest can remain in public ministry or can be transferred into, out of, or within the Albany Diocese if the diocese has found reasonable grounds to believe he sexually abused a minor at any time.”
Over the past six decades, 23 priests have been removed by the diocese for such reasons.
Several St. Jude’s parishioners chose to discuss the issue with Menty following the service, but Irene Pagano said officials could give few details during that meeting.“Their hands are tied. It’s privacy,” said Pagano, who said the allegations shocked the parish.
“Everybody was so shocked,” she said. “I think he’s a great priest, and I hope this can be cleared for him. His life is ruined right now.”
Rodino can appeal the decision to the Vatican, explained diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb. For the time being, unless Rodino finds employment elsewhere, he will continue to receive “reduced compensation” from the diocese, he said.
The recommendation to Hubbard was made after an investigation by the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board. That investigation did not begin until local prosecutors confirmed the alleged crime had surpassed its statute of limitations, Goldfarb said.
As such, neither criminal nor civil proceedings can be brought against Rodino by prosecutors or the alleged victim.
Rodino also served at St. Bonaventure in Spiegletown, St. Pius X in Loudonville and St. Margaret Mary in Albany, which were similarly notified Sunday by Hubbard’s letter. He also served Catholic Central High School, LaSalle Institute, Bishop Maginn High School and St. Patrick’s Academy in Catskill.
St. Jude’s parishioners who attended Saturday afternoon’s Mass first heard of the actions taken against their priest. Some arriving on Sunday had not heard the news, but many of those who had offered only words of support.
“Father Rodino is well-respected. I think this parish will stand behind him,” said Lou Desso, who also serves as a North Greenbush councilman.
Desso said Rodino took the church “out of the red and into the black for the first time in many years.”
Others spoke with a hint of anger.
“I’ve known him since he was a little boy. This is ridiculous what they are doing,” said Mary Homitz. “I could never believe it about Sammy.”
Bob Miller has also known Rodino for many years — the two attended high school together. Miller said he finds it “extremely hard to believe” the allegations of sexual abuse.
“I struggle to believe what’s going on,” he said. “I just hope that when he’s exonerated, they give as much attention in the press as they do with the allegations.”
As for the parishioners, who are left without a permanent priest for the time being, Goldfarb said that it will take time for them to heal and noted the process is different for everyone, including victims in cases of abuse.
But several parishioners said their community is a strong one that can endure hardship.
“If they truly practice their faith, they’ll get through it,” Miller said.
A meeting for parishioners on the issue is scheduled at St Jude’s for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Dave Canfield can be reached at 270-1290 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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