New accusations of child sex abuse have been made against a Catholic priest who worked in Woodbridge in the mid-80s, as well as against a teacher at Saint Joseph, an elite boys' Catholic prep school in Metuchen.
The Woodbridge priest is Father Patrick Barrett, who worked at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic church in Port Reading. The St. Joe's teacher is Brother Regis Moccia, accused of abusing a student who attended the school in the mid '90s.
Both were named in lawsuits filed this week against the Diocese of Metuchen. This is the first time either man has been accused of such a crime.
Barrett is accused of sexually abusing a child who attended St. Anthony's from approximately 1983 to 1984. The victim was 9 to 10 years old at the time.
The Woodbridge victim said he or she was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family and regularly attended St. Anthony in Port Reading in the 1980s. The victim and his/her family "participated in youth activities and/or church activities at St. Anthony" and often came in contact with Father Barrett.
"The plaintiff (victim) developed great admiration, trust, reverence and respect for the Roman Catholic Church, including Fr. Barrett," read the suit. "During and through these activities, plaintiff, as a minor and vulnerable child, was dependent on Father Barrett."
"From approximately 1983 to 1984, when plaintiff was approximately 9 to 10 years old, Fr. Barrett engaged in unpermitted sexual contact with plaintiff," it continued. "The culture of the Catholic Church created pressure on Plaintiff not to report the abuses suffered. (The diocese) knew or should have known that Fr. Barrett was a danger to children before Fr. Barrett sexually assaulted Plaintiff. At the very least, defendants knew or should have known that they did not have sufficient information about whether or not their leaders and people working at Catholic institutions within the Diocese were safe."
The suits also argue that Father Barrett's superiors should have more closely monitored his behavior with children.
The second lawsuit was filed this week against Brother Regis Moccia, accusing him of sexually abusing a 13- to 14-year-old student at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen from approximately 1994 to 1995.
Moccia was a member of the Catholic Brothers of the Sacred Heart, which staffs the Catholic all-boys school in Metuchen.
The suit was filed this week by law firms Jeff Anderson & Associates and Gianforcaro Law.
The lawyers argue that the diocese of Metuchen owed families in that area "a duty of reasonable care because they solicited youth and parents for participation in their youth programs; undertook custody of minor children, promoted their facilities and programs as being safe for children; held their agents, including Fr. Barrett, out as safe to work with children and encouraged parents and children to spend time with their agents."
Both cases were brought under the New Jersey Child Sexual Abuse Act/New Jersey Victims' Rights Bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Murphy in 2019. The bills lifted the statute of limitations on certain sexual offense, allowing child victims of sexual abuse to sue their alleged abusers until they turn 55 or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused harm.
Previously, victims had just two years to allege abuse happened.
"The courageous survivors who brought suit today are reclaiming the power that was stolen from them as children," said attorney Greg Gianforcaro. "We are honored to stand with them in their pursuit of truths that have been hidden for far too long."
"These survivors are standing up, speaking out and seizing the opportunity afforded by New Jersey's Child Sexual Abuse Act which has opened the courthouse doors for survivors of any age to take action for a limited time," said attorney Jeff Anderson. "It's time for a reckoning in the Diocese of Metuchen."
Both lawsuits seek monetary damages from the Diocese of Metuchen.