Former Pastor of St. Veronica Church in Howell Arrested by Clergy Sex Abuse Task Force
By Kathleen Hopkins and Andrew J. Goudsward
Asbury Park Press
September 26, 2019
TRENTON – A retired, former pastor of St. Veronica Roman Catholic Church in Howell has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting an underage girl in the 1990s, authorities said.
The Rev. Brendan Williams, 78, who now resides in a retirement community for Catholic clergy in Lawrence, was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree sexual assault related to criminal sexual contact on a victim who was younger than 13, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a news release.
Williams was pastor of St. Veronica Roman Catholic Church in Howell when the alleged criminal acts occurred between 1997 and 1999, the news release said. He is alleged to have touched the victim’s intimate parts with his hands on at least three occasions during that time period – twice in Colts Neck and once at a location in Ocean County, the news release said.
Williams is the second priest to be charged in criminal cases filed by the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force, which was formed by Grewal in September 2018 to investigate allegations of clergy abuse.
Last month, the task force secured a four-year prison term for the Rev. Thomas Ganley for sexually assaulting a teenage girl in the early 1990s, while he was at St. Cecelia Roman Catholic Church in the Iselin section of Woodbridge.
Williams was arrested by members of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office who are assigned to the task force.
The investigation started with a call to the Clergy Abuse Task Force Hotline, the news release said.
“Once again a call to our hotline has led to a thorough investigation by members of our Clergy Abuse Task Force and charges against a priest who allegedly assaulted a young girl many years ago,” state Attorney General Grewal said in the news release. “No person is above the law and we want survivors to know that, despite the passage of time, justice may still be within reach.”
Williams was one of 30 former clergy members identified as being credibly accused of child sex abuse in a list released by the Catholic Diocese of Trenton in February. The Diocese said Williams had been ordained in 1965 and faced multiple credible allegations of child sex abuse.
Before St. Veronica, Williams had been assigned to St. Joan of Arc Parish in Marlton and St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish in Hamilton. He also served as the chaplain of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Edison.
Williams was one of six clergymen on the Diocese's list that had at some point been assigned to St. Veronica.
Williams supervised another clergymen Richard Milewski who had been accused of sexually abusing an altar boy at St. Veronica's in the 1980s. Williams was named in a 2009 lawsuit against Milewski that alleged Williams knew or should have known about the abuse, according to Asbury Park Press archives.
Williams was quoted in a 2002 Press article on the growing sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, which at that point was only beginning to come to light.
"What I am getting from people is that we all feel a great sense of sadness that these things have happened to our church that we love," he was quoted as saying. "We are looking for and searching for root causes of these things, of how these abuses could creep into our church, and the priesthood of all places."
“Many victims of clergy abuse have been forced to suffer in silence for extended periods of time and this trauma has cast a shadow over their lives," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a statement. "We hope that bringing charges against predatory clergy members will bring some measure of peace to those who have been victimized.”
Grewal's task force uses subpoenas and other investigative methods to uncover evidence of sex abuse in the Catholic church and investigate attempts to cover up incidents. A team of detectives and prosecutors from all 21 New Jersey county prosecutors’ offices and the state Division of Criminal Justice are involved in the effort.
|New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. (Photo: File photo)|
The task force was formed after an explosive grand jury report from Pennsylvania accused more than 300 clergy members of sexually abusing children over seven decades.
"We urge all survivors, witnesses of sexual abuse, and others with information to call our hotline: 855-353-6548,,'' said Veronica Allende, director of the attorney general's Division of Criminal Justice.
The investigation into Williams is active and ongoing, authorities said. Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Michael Magliozzo or Detective Thomas Manzo of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office at 732-431-7160. The case has been assigned to Thomas Fichter, assistant Monmouth County prosecutor.
Kathleen Hopkins, a reporter in New Jersey since 1985, covers crime, court cases, legal issues, unsolved mysteries and just about every major murder trial to hit Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at email@example.com; 732-643-4202.
Andrew Goudsward covers crime and breaking news. A lifelong native of the Jersey Shore, he won a New Jersey Press Association award for best new journalist in 2018. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 732-897-4555 or @AGoudsward on Twitter.