Croton-On-Hudson Deacon Dismissed over Sex Abuse Allegations
By Hoa Nguyen
The Journal News
September 30, 2013
|Deacon Albert Mazza, center, celebrates Mass with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, right, in 2009|
CROTON-ON-HUDSON — A deacon has been dismissed from his duties at Church of the Holy Name of Mary after allegations of sexual abuse of minors from years ago recently surfaced, Catholic officials said.
Deacon Al Mazza has been accused of engaging in immoral and illegal conduct with minors prior to becoming a deacon in 1996, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told parishioners via a letter on Sunday. The incident is the third time an ordained minister has faced such allegations in the Croton parish.
Dolan’s letter, read to parishioners at Sunday Masses, said the action was taken due to “credible and substantiated allegations of the abuse of minors.”
In Mazza’s case, the allegations were unrelated to his activities at the church, archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said.
A deacon is an ordained minister who works with the pastor and parish staff but can have a job outside the church. Mazza owns a construction company. He could not be reached for comment.
Two former pastors of Holy Name, Kenneth Jesselli and Gennaro Gentile, were defrocked due to similar allegations. Mazza was ordained as deacon at about the same time Gentile served as pastor. Zwilling called their service together at the parish “a sad coincidence.”
“To be going through this for a third time is devastating,” said Lori Vlad, a lifelong parishoner who wasn’t in attendance Sunday. “I’ve talked with a couple of friends about it. No one expected this. It’s just heartbreaking.”
The Westchester District Attorney’s Office confirmed officials had investigated the case along with Croton-on-Hudson police, but said prosecutors could not bring charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
The district attorney forwarded the allegations to the diocese. Mazza was placed on administrative leave until last week, when the archdiocesan review board recommended removing Mazza from the ministry, Zwilling said.
The former deacon could appeal to the pope, officials said.
Dolan’s letter said, “I am so very sorry to have to bring this sad matter to your attention, especially given that this parish has suffered so terribly in the past for the same reason.”