Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct Remains out of Ministry
By Susan Loyer
November 8, 2013
The pastor of a Jamesburg-based parish will remain out of ministry until an alleged claim of sexual misconduct is resolved, according to the Diocese of Metuchen.
The Rev. Kevin Duggan, who served at St. James the Less since August 2009, has been accused of sexually abusing a developmentally challenged adult at St. James Parish in Woodbridge more than 20 years ago, according to the diocese.
Parishioners of the St. James the Less parish were told of the allegation last week when a letter from Bishop Paul Bootkoski was read at Masses. Duggan, who took himself out of ministry for treatment of alcoholism, was due to return to the parish soon, when the alleged claim of abuse was announced.
In the letter, the bishop said Duggan, 59, “adamantly denies these charges.”
The allegation was brought to the diocese’s attention in April by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Erin Friedlander, spokesperson for the diocese said. Early in the investigation, Duggan took himself out of ministry and remains out of ministry since he left for treatment in July, she said.
“It is the bishop’s decision that Father Duggan not return to ministry until all matters are resolved,” Friedlander said. “While he is out of ministry, Father Duggan may not present himself as a priest or exercise priestly ministry.”
For the past four months, Duggan, who first served as administrator of the parish and then pastor in March 2012, has been in Rochester, Minn., at Guest House, a facility for the treatment of Catholic clergy and religious who suffer from alcohol and other substance addictions, the bishop’s letter said.
“By all accounts, Father Duggan cooperated fully with the Guest House staff of doctors and therapists and worked very hard at addressing the root causes of his disease and at developing a comprehensive plan for successfully living with it for the rest of his life,” the letter said.
But, the difficulties he has faced for so long cannot be treated in a few months, the letter said.
As far as the sexual abuse allegation, the letter said “it may or may not fall under the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The status of these charges with respect to the Bishops’ Charter will be decided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome and the Diocese will then proceed according to their directions.”
This is the first complaint involving allegations of a sexual misconduct against Father Duggan, Friedlander said.
“The diocese takes this matter very seriously and is addressing the issue with transparency and in full accordance with Church law,” she said. “We are dealing with a disputed question of Church law. The matter is going to the highest authority for a definitive interpretation. Until then, Father Duggan will not be functioning as a priest and will continue to seek help for his addiction.”
In his letter, the bishop said “it is my belief and that of others with whom I have consulted, that even without these charges Father Duggan needs to continue the work of strengthening his physical and emotional health before he can resume facing the workload and the daily stresses of pastoring a parish of nearly 1,700 households.”
Duggan’s assignments in the Diocese of Metuchen included St. Joseph Parish, North Plainfield; St. James Parish, Woodbridge; St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Old Bridge; Corpus Christi Parish, South River; St. Mary Parish, South Amboy, and St. James the Less Parish, Jamesburg.
Monsignor John B. Szymanski will continue to serve as the temporary administrator at St. James the Less Parish.
Staff Writer Susan Loyer: 732-565-7243; firstname.lastname@example.org