Woman Accusing Clerics of Sex Assault Is Caught in a Lie
By William Kleinknecht
The Star-Ledger [Newark, New Jersey]
July 19, 2002
A woman who has accused three New Jersey priests of sexually assaulting her more than two decades ago admits that she fabricated a story about having been pregnant three times as a teenager.
On a Web site devoted to accounts by women whose children had died, the woman depicted herself as having become pregnant at ages 13, 14 and 16. On the Web site, she stated that one child was stillborn, another was aborted and the third lived two weeks.
Asked about the Web site this week, the woman said she was never pregnant. She said a woman she met in counseling was the real mother and wanted to post the information on a Web site, but was afraid to use her name. She said she was trying to help the woman by posting the woman's experiences under her own name.
"I was doing that to help someone," she said. "Those were not my children."
The woman made her allegations against the three priests in a two-hour meeting last month with officials of the Archdiocese of Newark. She made the same allegations in a lengthy interview with The Star-Ledger, and the paper agreed to her request that her name not be used.
The Web site was discovered by Michael Critchley, the attorney for the Rev. Bruno Ugliano, one of the three priests accused of assaulting the woman. Ugliano has been removed from his position as a chaplain at Rider University in Lawrenceville.
Critchley said the Web site raised serious questions about the woman's credibility. He said he is not convinced by her explanation that she was merely relating another woman's experiences under her own name.
"If that is the best answer she can come up with, that is further evidence of her bizarre behavior," Critchley said. "Her story is simply preposterous."
The Union County Prosecutor's Office is investigating the woman's claim that she was assaulted in the early 1980s by Ugliano and two other priests, the Rev. Joseph Rice and the Rev. Edward Eilert, who were active in the county's Catholic Youth Organization.
The prosecutor's office said the cases may be impossible to prosecute because of the statute of limitations that existed at the time of the alleged assaults.
Because of her allegation, Rice and Eilert have also been removed from their ministries. Rice was a chaplain at Bergen Regional Health Care Center in Paramus, and Eilert was the pastor of St. Philomena's Church in Livingston.
The woman, who is now 38, formerly lived in Union County and now lives in North Carolina. She said she was assaulted by Rice at St. John's Church in Linden when she was about age 14. She said she met the other two priests through her work in the CYO. Eilert was at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mountainside and Ugliano was at St. Elizabeth's Church in Linden.
The woman said she has spent years in therapy since the assaults, has developed eating disorders and has attempted suicide on numerous occasions.
But on a Web site she created, the woman related a different story. She said she had babies in 1977, 1978 and 1980 after hiding the pregnancies. Those dates would have made her 13 when the first pregnancy occurred.
"I have had children, despite the secrecy and having to hide my pregnancies," she wrote in the Web site. "I have had three beautiful babies that I know of."
She said the third child, which she said lived for two weeks, was "so precious. I couldn't believe how much love I had for her despite how she was conceived. I was so convinced she would be monster-like, and yet I was so wrong."
It was unclear when the Web site was created, but it was removed from the Internet this week, after the woman was questioned by The Star-Ledger.
In another Web site, which provides a forum for survivors of psychological trauma, the same woman relates her experience as a sexual assault victim, saying she had been tortured at the hands of a "cult."
Asked about this, she said that the cult she was referring to was the Catholic church, which she did not want to name at the time.
Critchley said that Ugliano, formerly the headmaster of the prestigious Delbarton School in Morris County, is innocent and is being swept up in a witch hunt.
The woman's lawyer, Gregory Gianforcaro, said yesterday that his client's decision to use her name on the Web site grew out of her desire, however ill-advised, to help another troubled woman. He said it sheds no light on whether she is telling the truth about the three priests.
"I don't think it suggests anything about her truthfulness," he said. "She was just trying to help someone."
James Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, and Timothy Donohue, Eilert's lawyer, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Gerald Krovatin, the attorney for Rice, said his client continues to profess his innocence and is not surprised the woman's credibility has been questioned.
"The whole series of events as she described them sounded a lot more like fiction than fact," he said.
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