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  Newark Archbishop Appalled by Arrests

By Brian Donohue
Star-Ledger [Newark New Jersey]
July 28, 2002

On the eastern edge of this Canadian city lies a vibrant neighborhood widely considered one of the most gay- friendly enclaves in North America. Same-sex couples stroll arm-in-arm along cafe-lined streets, drawing hardly a glance.

It is here, police allege, that two New Jersey priests came looking to cut a deal for sex with a teenage boy.

The Rev. William Giblin, 70, the former headmaster of the prestigious Seton Hall Preparatory School, negotiated the terms of an encounter between the young prostitute and his traveling companion, the Rev. Eugene Heyndricks, the pastor at a Hudson County church, police said.

Heyndricks, 60, then allegedly engaged in sex with the boy. The priests were the first two people arrested in what Montreal authorities called the dismantling of a male prostitution ring that frequently drew patrons from the United States. Police disclosed the July 18 arrests of Giblin and Heyndricks only after a roundup of additional suspects Wednesday night.

The charges - the latest dose of bad publicity for the Roman Catholic Church as it seeks to stem outrage over decades of sexual abuse by priests - sent jolts across both sides of the border.

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, in Toronto with Pope John Paul II for the close of World Youth Day activities yesterday, was "appalled and saddened" by the arrests, said James Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

In New Jersey, current and former officials with Seton Hall Prep and parishioners at several churches where the men have served over the years universally expressed shock. Most insisted the charges must be a mistake.

"I worked with him, and I am very surprised to hear this," Monsignor Michael Kelly, the current headmaster at Seton Hall Prep, said of Giblin. "I would hope that these are false allegations by all means."

Giblin and Heyndricks posted bail after a court appearance in Montreal on July 19. Due back in court in October, they have returned to the United States and resigned their ministries, Goodness said.

Heyndricks, most recently pastor at St. John Nepomucene parish in Guttenberg, Hudson County, could not be located yesterday, and Goodness said he did not know where the priest was staying.

Giblin, who had been in semi-retirement at the Church of the Holy Rosary in Edgewater, Bergen County, remained at the church's rectory yesterday, preparing to move out.

Holy Rosary's pastor, the Rev. George J. Ruane, said Giblin was unavailable for comment.

"He'll be in and out all day," Ruane said.

The pastor declined to answer questions about Giblin, offering only an unqualified expression of support for him.

"As far as we're concerned, he is innocent," Ruane said. "I've known him for 40 years, and he's been a good priest. There have never been any allegations against him before."

Goodness confirmed that neither Giblin nor Heyndricks had been the subject of a complaint over long careers that took them through numerous churches and institutions, most in Bergen and Essex counties.

Giblin, ordained in 1959, has served at St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge and St. Joseph's Parish in East Orange. A former professor at Seton Hall University, he served as headmaster at Seton Hall Prep, an acclaimed all-boys high school in West Orange, from 1969 to 1980.

Giblin stayed on at the prep school for nine years afterward, teaching religion, before he was named pastor at St. Joseph's. In failing health - former co-workers and parishioners said he suffers from hepatitis and underwent a liver transplant several years ago - Giblin has lived at Holy Rosary since 2001.

Though officially in retirement, he continued to occasionally say Mass and perform other duties in the parish, parishioners said.

Heyndricks, a lay teacher at St. Joseph's Elementary School in Oradell during the 1970s, was ordained in 1981. Since then, he has held parish posts in Verona, Ridgewood, Park Ridge, Fairview and Guttenberg.

Montreal police, citing the ongoing investigation, released few details of the circumstances leading up to the pair's arrests. They also declined to say precisely where the alleged solicitation and sexual acts took place.

They did, however, acknowledge their operation focused on the "Gay Village," a Montreal district touted in guidebooks as perhaps the most gay-friendly neighborhood in North America.

Residents of the French-speaking city say prostitution involving teenage boys has long been a problem along the district's main street, Rue Ste. Catherine, a European-flavored melange of nightclubs, cafes and raucous strip clubs.

Many of those who hire prostitutes, police say, are visitors from the United States.

"The information we've developed during our investigation is that many of the clients of those teenagers were American people," said Ian Lafreniere, a Montreal police spokesman. "It's a ring very well known across the border."

It was not immediately clear when Giblin and Heyndricks traveled to Montreal, where they stayed or whether they were with a larger group.

Goodness, the archdiocese spokesman, said the men were not on church business at the time.

"We have no information about their reasons for being there," he said, adding that the archdiocese continues to seek information on the arrests.

According to police documents, Heyndricks is charged with engaging in a sex act with a minor. No specific age for the prostitute was given, though police have said the ring employed boys as young as 14.

Giblin is charged with facilitating the tryst, a count that authorities said reflects his work in negotiating the encounter.

In keeping with the Catholic church's desire to be more open about problem priests - a development sparked by the sex-abuse scandal that has plagued the church since January - the archdiocese notified the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office of the arrests, a spokeswoman for that office said.

But because the alleged crimes took place in Canada, the referral is unlikely to result in a probe here.

In churches across northeastern New Jersey, meanwhile, news of the arrests shook parishioners and acquaintances of the men.

At St. John the Baptist Church in Fairview, Heyndricks was known for delivering sermons in a breezy, joking style that, while some found too flip, charmed others.

"I think this whole church is gonna stand behind him," said Miriam Vaumamn, 78, of Fairview.

At St. John Nepomucene in Guttenberg, Heyndricks' most recent posting, visitors to yesterday's 5 p.m. Mass called the priest a "wonderful" pastor active in the parish school.

"The kids seemed to take to this priest," said Deborah Vazquez, whose daughter attends the school. "He laughed with them. He joked with them."

Friends of Giblin said they simply could not square their image of the man with the police portrait of him brokering a deal for sex.

"I'm just kind of floored by this," said Joseph Kane, who served as assistant headmaster at Seton Hall Prep for 19 years, 11 of them under Giblin. "He gave Seton Hall 100 percent of his talent, which is considerable."

Giblin's presence remains strong at the school, with an auditorium and a student recognition award named in his honor.

Parishioners at St Joseph's in East Orangewere no less supportive, recalling that Giblin often reached into his own pocket to give money to needy families or to buy diapers for single mothers.

"He helped me through the most trying time in my life," said Zeller Jones, a Hillside resident. "I've known no other priest as close as Father Bill. I love him very much."

 
 

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