Former Pompton Lakes pastor suspended from Virginia parish in light of abuse allegation
By Jeff Green
June 20, 2016
POMPTON LAKES – A former pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church has been suspended by church leaders in Virginia, where he most recently served, over an allegation of child sexual abuse that predates his 15-year tenure in Pompton Lakes.
Rev. Kevin Downey was placed on administrative leave two weeks ago by the Diocese of Arlington, Va. In a statement, the diocese said Downey had recently been accused of abusing a boy in 1990, while he was vice president of development at Quincy University in Illinois.
Downey denies the accusation, the statement said.
Downey was an assistant priest at St. Mary’s in Pompton Lakes from 1993 to 1999, and he served as the parish pastor from 2002 to 2011.
Before he left New Jersey to become a pastor in Triangle, Va. in 2011, the staff of the Pompton Avenue church renamed part of the building Downey Hall in his honor.
It wasn’t clear on Monday whether the parish, staffed by the religious order Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province, had notified congregants about the abuse allegation. The current pastor, Rev. Frank Sevola, referred a reporter to the religious order’s New York City office, where a representative had no comment.
In a statement, however, the religious order said it has “zero tolerance for abuse and takes all abuse allegations very seriously.”
The statement said the order implements “stringent protocols” when abuse allegations are reported and that an independent investigation was launched immediately after Downey’s removal.
“Under its protocol, if allegations are substantiated the Province notifies all parishes where the accused has served,” the statement said.
The Diocese of Arlington said in its statement that it notified law enforcement about the abuse claim, which remains under a church review to determine its credibility. He has not been charged with any crime.
The diocese appointed an administrator to head the suspended pastor’s parish, St. Francis of Assisi Church.
While praising the diocese for notifying parishioners in Virginia about the abuse allegation, the victim’s advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the bishop should actively seek to find out whether there are any other allegations of abuse.
A charismatic priest, Downey spoke with The Record in March 2010 for a story about church fashion, saying he tried to establish a casual, welcoming setting in Pompton Lakes.
“The God I preach is loving and all-inclusive,” he said at the time.