New accusers file suits alleging sex abuse by defrocked Paterson Diocese priest
By Abbott Koloff
December 4, 2019
|James Hanley, pictured in this file photo from January 2006, was listed by the church as being credibly accused of child sexual abuse. The five NJ dioceses each released a list of names on Feb. 13, 2019.|
Photo by Tariq Zehawi
|Bishop Frank Rodimer |
Photo by Danielle P. Richards
At least two new accusers came forward this week to file sex abuse lawsuits naming a now-defrocked Paterson Diocese priest, James T. Hanley, who has admitted to abusing children and was at the center of the 2002 Catholic Church scandal in New Jersey related to an alleged cover-up of sex abuse by some bishops.
One man said in court papers that he was abused by Hanley and two other priests — a former assistant to Hanley at a Mendham church decades ago and a former Catholic school administrator who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two boys more than 25 years ago.
Another said Hanley abused him as a minor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Pequannock in the late 1960s.
The accusations were among dozens of lawsuits filed since Sunday when a state law took effect that gives people more time to file civil complaints alleging sex abuse.
Hanley has admitted in prior court papers to abusing at least a dozen children, many of them at St. Joseph's parish in Mendham. Numerous men who attended St. Joseph's as children gathered in 2002 amid a growing church scandal for a meeting to discuss being abused by Hanley. The priest also was the central figure in a lawsuit that led to a $5 million settlement in 2005.
One of the new Hanley accusers alleged that the priest sexually abused him when he was between 11 and 13 years old, starting in 1974 when he attended St. Joseph's parish. He is not identified in court papers.
The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Paterson, was the subject of a press conference held Wednesday in Saddle Brook by attorneys Jeff Anderson of Minnesota and Greg Gianforcaro of Phillipsburg.
Gianforcaro has represented other Hanley victims and said he had been friends with many of them growing up in Mendham and attending St. Joseph's parish.
During the press conference, Pat Serrano — the mother of Mark Serrano, another of Hanley's victims — held up a picture of her son from when he was a child She said she blames bishops, cardinals and other church officials for hiding abuse.
"I was angry then, and I'm angry now," she said.
Mark Serrano went to Paterson Bishop Frank Rodimer with his allegations in 1985.
When Hanley acknowledged the abuse to Rodimer, the bishop told him, "You're not the only one," according to court documents. The priest was moved to a Wayne parish and then for a time to a Catholic hospital in Albany, New York, after church officials were told about the allegations.
Rodimer, who died last year, acknowledged making mistakes in his handling of some sex abuse cases and agreed to talk with abuse survivors who had been meeting in Mendham in 2002. Some of the men in attendance said it was the first time they talked about being abused.
They had been prompted to come forward when Mark Serrano became the first person in the nation to break a confidentiality agreement with the Catholic Church related to a sex abuse settlement.
Hanley, who was defrocked in 2003, receives a stipend from the Paterson Diocese, which officials say is required by church law. They have declined to disclose where he is living.
Anderson and Gianforcaro said in court documents that the new Hanley accuser also was sexually abused by an assistant priest at the Mendham church.
That priest, Thomas Rainforth, was not on the list of 188 credibly accused clerics released by the state's five Catholic dioceses earlier this year.
In 2002, another man accused Rainforth of sexually abusing him decades earlier when he and other boys spent the night at the priest's lake house in Sparta.
A Paterson Diocese review board determined at the time that the allegation didn't meet the church's definition of sexual abuse. Rainforth, who died recently, served for years at a parish in Clifton.
Matt Kelly, of Morristown, said he attended Wednesday's press conference to support the latest accuser. Three of his brothers were abused by Hanley, he said, and one was abused by Rainforth.
The Rainforth accuser, John Kelly, died of a drug overdose, Matt Kelly said, and was among more than two dozen people, mostly Hanley accusers, paid by the Paterson Diocese in the 2005 settlement. Kelly said one brother who had been abused by Hanley, James Kelly, died by suicide in 2003, walking in front of a train.
One review board member from that time had provided to NorthJersey.com a letter and statements she had written about some of the cases she had heard. Nora Connors, who has since died, was referring to John Kelly's 2002 accusation against Rainforth when she wrote that the accuser was "nervous" and "omitted critical information" in his description of the abuse during a review board hearing.
She wrote the statement five years after the case had been heard, adding that "sufficient evidence" was presented showing Rainforth gave alcohol to the accuser and other young boys who spent the night at his house.
Kenneth Mullaney, the Paterson Diocese general counsel, said the accuser "did not testify that he was sexually abused" and noted that the review board, which included Connors, made its determination in a 7-0 vote.
The board, he said, recommended Rainforth "should receive some kind of censure" for giving alcohol to minors.
The criminal statute of limitations would have run out by that time.
The other priest accused in the new lawsuit is John Pisarcik, who was pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Rockaway when he was charged in 1991 with sexually assaulting two boys, both under the age of 13. He later pleaded guilty to sexual assault, according to court records. The lawsuit says that it is not known where he is living.
Pisarcik allegedly abused the accuser starting when the boy was 15 years old in 1978 and continuing until 1990. The lawsuit says the priest had been working at Bayley-Ellard High School in Madison, which closed in 2005, when he met the boy during youth and church activities.
Pisarcik had been a vice principal at Bayley-Ellard. He also had been chaplain at St. Francis Health Resort in Denville, the principal of the now-defunct Neumann Preparatory School in Wayne, and a member of the faculty at Morris Catholic High School.
He was sentenced to five years in prison. Later, a church official said he lived at New Mexico retreat for clerics who had been accused of sexual abuse or who had other issues. The Paterson Diocese declined to disclose where he is now living.