2 N.J. priests 'step aside' after sexual misconduct allegations
By Kelly Heyboer
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
August 29, 2018
Two New Jersey priests have left their parishes in Hudson and Bergen counties while Catholic Church officials investigate separate sexual misconduct allegations that date back decades, an archdiocese official said.
The Rev. Gerard Sudol, priest in residence at Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church in Jersey City, stepped down from his post last week, said James Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark. Sudol was accused of sexually abusing an altar boy while he was assigned to a church in Ridgefield Park in the 1980s and 1990s.
Sudol faced similar accusations in the 1990s but was permitted to return to working in parishes, church officials said.
The Rev. Jim Weiner, the new pastor of St. Andrew's Church in Westwood, will also step aside from his post, Goodness said. Weiner was accused of the sexual assault of a seminarian in the 1980s.
Weiner's accuser said he reached a settlement with the church in 2004, but the priest was permitted to continue his ministry.
Sudol and Weiner both recently agreed to leave while they await the results of new investigations into the claims, Goodness said. Neither was formally removed from the parishes by church officials.
"Both of them have voluntarily stepped aside while the inquiries are being done. Sudol stepped aside last week, and Weiner was planning on announcing it to his parish this week," Goodness said.
Neither priest could be reached for comment.
Last Sunday's parish bulletin at St. Andrew's Parish hinted that Weiner would be leaving, at least temporarily.
"The installation of Fr. Jim as the pastor of St. Andrew's Parish originally scheduled for Saturday, September 15 has been cancelled. New date is to be determined," the bulletin said, with no additional explanation.
The sexual misconduct investigations come as the Archdiocese of Newark is beginning an audit of its personnel files to look into previous accusations of abuse.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, head of the Archdiocese of Newark, called for the audit after the resignation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former head of the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen.
McCarrick has been accused of decades of sexual abuse of young boys and sexual misconduct with priests and seminarians while fellow church officials allowed him to rise to the top ranks of the church hierarchy. He is awaiting a church trial.
The recent report by a Pennsylvania grand jury detailing the alleged church cover-up of the abuse of more than 1,000 children by more than 300 priests in that state has led to a renewed focus on how the Catholic Church handles sexual misconduct and abuse claims.
Earlier this month, freelance journalist Ed Hanratty wrote a column inspired by the Pennsylvania grand jury report in which he detailed his alleged abuse by Sudol, the priest in Jersey City, while he was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Ridgefield Park in the 1980s and 1990s.
Hanratty alleged Sudol would hug and kiss altar boys on the mouth. The priest later sexually abused Hanratty in his family's pool when he was invited over for dinner, the journalist alleged.
"Following the Pennsylvania report and the public outcry, I felt that now was the time to tell my story. Not because I was stunned by the events in the Keystone State, but because I wasn't. Because I STILL don't think we've even scratched the surface on this scandal," Hanratty wrote in his column.
Sudol has been previously accused of sexual misconduct in the 1990s, but no criminal charges were filed against him, and he was permitted to return to the ministry, Goodness said.
Weiner, the priest in Westwood, is accused of sexually abusing a young seminarian in 1988 at St. Benedict's Parish in Newark.
The Rev. Desmond Rossi, a priest in the Diocese of Albany, said he was a seminarian when he was thrown on a bed and sexually assaulted after a night of drinking by Weiner, then a transitional deacon, and another priest, who has since died.
Rossi said he filed a complaint with the archdiocese's review board and his allegations were deemed "credible," but they could not be substantiated. He agreed to a settlement with the archdiocese in 2004, for about $35,000, to cover the cost of counseling, he said.
After the allegations against McCarrick, Rossi asked the church to reopen his case against Weiner.
"I decided I just can no longer stay quiet and afraid," Rossi said earlier this month.