Trenton Diocese Relieves Priests after Sex Abuse Allegations
June 7, 2002
TRENTON, N.J. — Two Roman Catholic priests have been relieved of their duties by the Diocese of Trenton after being accused of sexually abusing minors in cases that date back two decades.
Monsignor Manuel Fernandez, rector of Saint Mary Cathedral and pastor of St. Joseph Parish, both in Trenton, agreed to a leave of absence after being accused of inappropriate conduct with a young girl about 20 years ago, the diocese said.
The other priest, Monsignor Leo Kelty, is pastor of the Parish of Saint William the Abbot in Howell. He is accused of inappropriately touching a young girl on two occasions more than 20 years ago. He also agreed to a leave of absence, the diocese said.
"I am profoundly sorry for the terrible pain caused to any victims and their families in sexual abuse cases," Bishop John Smith of Trenton said in a statement. "I want to stress that, consistent with our policy, we will continue to offer counseling for persons who make such complaints."
The diocese referred the cases to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's office.
"We have made a decision that both cases are beyond the statue of limitations and we are not pursuing the cases," Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Bill Guidry said.
Last month, Diocese of Paterson turned over files detailing sex abuse allegations against priests to prosecutors in Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties after prosecutors requested it. The Camden and Trenton dioceses also supplied similar information to authorities.
The Archdiocese of Newark and the Metuchen Diocese were reviewing their files.
In many instances, prosecutors have found the cases too old to pursue charges. Since Jan. 1, eight priests from New Jersey dioceses have been removed from their jobs over abuse allegations.
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