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  Molestation Cases
Lawmen May Get Files on Priests

By Carol Gorga Williams and James W. Prado
Asbury Park Press
April 4, 2002

The Trenton Diocese is considering turning over information to law enforcement authorities in four counties involving "verifiable" incidents of sexual offenses involving minors by 13 one-time parish priests. The diocese combed through 50 years of records over a two-week period to compile the information.

The Roman Catholic diocese is evaluating the 13 files it believes include credible evidence to determine how to proceed without violating victims' privacy.

"We haven't made a decision to turn over our files," said Michael J. Herbert, a Princeton attorney representing the diocese. "We have to examine all of these files (and) ... determine what in those files relates to law enforcement issues."

Meanwhile, the prosecutors in the four counties that comprise the diocese - Monmouth, Ocean, Mercer and Burlington - have asked for those records, and said they would vigorously pursue solid leads that could result in criminal charges against any of the former clerics.

Bishop John M. Smith said Tuesday that of the 13 offenders, two are known to be dead and only one was still working as a priest. Last week that priest was asked to leave the ministry. Smith said the priest, whom he would not identify, was implicated in sexual misconduct 15 years ago in Monmouth County.

Herbert said that priest was assigned elsewhere in the diocese when he was ousted.

In the past, "some victims had indicated strongly they didn't want their names revealed," Herbert said. "I think you can imply from that they didn't want to pursue it from a criminal matter; however that won't stop us from us fulfilling our requirements under the law.

Herbert said even if victims don't want their identities disclosed, the diocese may try to find a way to turn over some information to authorities.

"We are trying to be as candid as we can," Herbert said. "Many of these cases, several involving the 13 priests, have confidentiality agreements. There were civil complaints that were settled. There were provisions not to disclose the identity of the accusers. That was done in addition to obviously resolving the case, (but) to protect many people who frankly did not want to get involved or have a prosecution of their claims. What we do not want to have is to have victims become victims all over again."

Herbert said that he reached out to the prosecutors in Mercer and Burlington counties to share with them information the diocese had received about allegations made against individual priests in both counties.

In Ocean, according to James A. Churchill, a spokesman for Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher, there do not appear to be any cases unknown to authorities. Herbert confirmed that one of the 13 involved the case of Rev. Jose Ignatius Kuruthurukulangara, who was visiting St. Martha's Church in Point Pleasant from India in 1988 when he was charged with the sexual assault of a 7-year-old girl.

Information about how the case was resolved was not available yesterday, but Smith has said the 13 priests included four foreign priests. They all returned to their own countries and their bishops there were notified, Smith said Monday.

Another of the 13 cases involved that of the Rev. Robert J. Parenti, who was 59 in 1998 when an allegation of sexual misconduct was made public. He was a pastor at St. Denis Church in Manasquan but at one time had served St. Veronica's in Howell. The allegation involved an encounter with a minor 25 years earlier, authorities said.

Parenti left the priesthood. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Also in 1998, the Rev. Peter J. Osinski, principal of St. James High School in Carneys Point, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a boy in Somerdale, Camden County, and Brant Beach, Long Beach Township, prosecutors said.

Osinski, 59, remains in Southern State Correctional Institution, serving a term scheduled to run until March 6, 2005, correction records show.

'We are ... not Boston'

The diocese's review was provoked by news from Boston that Cardinal Bernard F. Law may have protected priest abusers there. The diocese there recently agreed to pay $30 million to settle suits involving a former priest, and has suspended several active priests. Law was criticized for moving parish priests around when complaints were made, possibly exposing new victims to predators.

"That didn't happen here," Herbert said. "These priests didn't get moved around. Those cases, when they occurred, corrective action was taken in all 13 cases. They were dealt with at the time. They were taken out of active ministry. I'm not dumping on Boston, but we are certainly not Boston and we are not a lot of places."

Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye said yesterday that he has reviewed a one-page file in his office stemming from a 1992 report by the state Division of Youth and Family Services that a priest, whom Kaye would not identify, was a pedophile. Kaye doesn't know if this case is one of the the 13 the Trenton Diocese is evaluating.

The DYFS complaint didn't elaborate, the prosecutor said. "It didn't give any clue of the victim, or any specific facts or to the location where the pedophilia could have occurred."

In September 1992, two Monmouth County detectives visited the priest but no charges were brought.

"This is an anonymous complaint against a citizen of this community which we closed because we determined it was unfounded and unprovable," Kaye said.

Kaye said he was unaware of any other complaints regarding priests in Monmouth County.

Robert D. Bernardi, Burlington County prosecutor, said that after Herbert's law office contacted him last Thursday to relay a claim by a Florida woman about alleged abuse by a priest 15 or 20 years ago, Bernardi initiated a telephone conference call with the prosecutors in Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer counties.

"I thought it was important that the four of us talk," Bernardi said.

Kaye said all four agreed to ask the diocese for any information about sexual misconduct allegations leveled against local priests.

 
 

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