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  Church Not Immune in Priest Sex Case

By Monica Maske Fisher
The Star-Ledger [Newark, New Jersey]
May 25, 1996

The Archdiocese of Newark is not immune from liability in a child molestation case involving a former Bergen County priest, a judge ruled yesterday.

Superior Court Judge Carol Ferentz in Newark, in denying a motion for summary judgment, said that since the complaint alleges the archdiocese knew of but took no action to stop the sexual abuse by the priest, the charitable immunity statute protecting the archdiocese from negligence claims did not apply.

When the archdiocese's attorney, Nicholas Spinelli, countered that the motion should be granted because the archdiocese already has denied any knowledge of the priest's behavior, Ferentz retorted, "You don't expect me to believe that?" She said "just because they say they didn't know" of any alleged sexual abuse, doesn't mean the plaintiff's attorneys don't have the "right to disprove" the archdiocese's assertion.

The case involves accusations by two brothers, now adults, who allege they were sexually assaulted between 1967 and 1968 by Michael Campanalonga, then an assistant pastor at St. Anthony's Church in Northvale.

After the allegations were brought to the archdiocese's attention in 1993, Campanalonga was told to undergo psychological evaluation. When he refused, he was suspended from the priesthood, meaning he cannot perform any priestly functions, dress or represent himself as a priest. He has since moved to Florida.

Michael, 42, and Thomas Corsie, 33, allege in court papers that the priest touched the boy's sexual organs, groin and buttocks, performed fellatio and anal intercourse, among other acts.

The brothers claimed the abuse occurred in their family home, the church rectory and a residence at the Jersey Shore belonging to a friend of the priest. Michael Corsie also claims the priest abused him during a cross-country automobile trip to California in the summer of 1968.

In his 1993 letter to the archdiocese, Michael Corsie said the priest had raped him. "I never said anything to anyone because I felt guilty and that no one would believe me.

"When I finally did share this information with my mother . . . I found out that I was not the only one in my family who he victimized," Corsie wrote.

The original complaint, filed in October 1994, contends that the brothers suffered anxiety, depression and psychological injury and incurred medical and psychiatric expenses as a result of the abuse. The suit asks for compensatory and punitive damages from the priest, the archdiocese, and Msgr. James F. Johnson, then-pastor of St. Anthony's.

Campanalonga, who was ordained in 1962, was an assistant pastor at St. Philomena's Church in Livingston for three years before being assigned to St. Anthony's from June 1965 to March 1973.

In 1973, the archdiocese reassigned the priest to campus ministry at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, where he remained until 1993.

 
 

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