Clifton Priest Faces Sex Charge, Put on Leave

By Tom Davis
July 14, 2002

CLIFTON - A Clifton priest went on indefinite leave Friday after he was accused of engaging in sexual misconduct more than 25 years ago, according to a spokeswoman for the Diocese Of Paterson.

The Rev. Thomas G. Rainforth voluntarily stepped down from his post at St. Philip The Apostle Church on Valley Road in Clifton, but he "adamantly denies any wrongdoing," said Marianna Thompson, spokeswoman for the diocese.

Efforts to reach Rainforth or his attorney were unsuccessful Saturday.

The diocese, already reeling from sexual abuse allegations involving four other priests, informed the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office after learning of the accusation about two weeks ago, Thompson said. Rainforth, hoping not to be a distraction, will be on leave as the investigation proceeds, she said.

The prosecutor's office is investigating, she said. Efforts to reach acting Prosecutor Boris Moczula were unsuccessful Saturday.

The diocese also will investigate the charge to determine what steps it will take. If wrongdoing is proven, she said, Rainforth could be removed from the clergy.

Gregory Gianforcaro, an attorney for the accuser, said his client, now in his mid-40s, was a resident of Mendham in Morris County when Rainforth allegedly abused him. He said Rainforth was assigned to duties in Mendham at the time, but the alleged incident took place at a home that Rainforth either rented or owned.

The allegation comes as the diocese is responding to sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. James T. Hanley and other priests. Hanley, who was accused of sexually abusing boys years ago in Mendham and worked with Rainforth, asked the Diocese of Paterson last month to remove him from the clergy.

The diocese also recently removed the Rev. William N. Cramer from active ministry, and he was forced to step down from his post as chaplain at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center. In 1988, Cramer pleaded guilty to fondling two boys, and was sentenced to probation.

And two former Clifton priests who most recently served in Morris County, Ralph Sodano and Allen Stepien, also face allegations and were recently placed on administrative leave as an investigation continues.

"It's a strain," Thompson said. "It's a very difficult subject. But it's something that has to be faced and something that has to be cleared up. Our children are our future. We have to take every lawful step to protect them."

The Rainforth accusation came in a June 28 letter to the diocese from Gianforcaro. Thompson said the letter was "vague" but still raised concern. In the letter, she said, Gianforcaro made several demands of the diocese, such as surveillance of Hanley's activities. But he also cited one person as a "victim of Thomas Rainforth" without providing further information, Thompson said.


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