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  Sex Arrests of Priests Dismay Faithful
2 Solicited Minors, Montreal Police Say

By Catherine Holahan and Paul H. Johnson
The Record [Bergen County NJ]
July 28, 2002

Catholics in Edgewater and Guttenberg expressed disgust and dismay Saturday after learning that trusted priests had been arrested by Canadian authorities shutting down a juvenile prostitution ring.

And church leaders once again were faced with balancing a sense of normalcy during Mass with a need to confront disturbing allegations and to address the concerns of frustrated parishioners.

The arrests in Montreal of the Rev. William Giblin, 70, of Edgewater and the Rev. Eugene Heyndricks, 60, of Guttenberg were part of a sting operation targeting a ring of male prostitutes, ages 14 to 22. Church officials confirmed the arrests Friday. At St. John Nepomucene Church in Guttenberg, the Rev. John Carlson, formerly of St. Philip Church of Saddle Brook, made no mention of the criminal charges against the man he is replacing.

Instead, he informed the congregation of about 60 that Heyndricks had taken a "voluntary leave of absence" and told worshipers to "continue to remember [Heyndricks] in your prayers at this difficult time."

Inside the Holy Rosary Church in Edgewater, where Giblin - the former headmaster of Seton Hall Prep in West Orange - was a retired priest in residence, the Rev. George J. Ruane acknowledged the newspaper accounts, and urged worshipers not to rush to judgment.

"Hopefully in a few months when these charges are resolved, we will have our beloved Father Bill back with us again," Ruane said, prompting applause from many of the 80 worshipers.

In both communities, worshipers for whom the Mass is a weekly ritual were saddened by the revelations and the focus on unholy matters. Torn by feelings of trust in their leaders, but frustrated with a flurry of allegations across the country, they seemed not to know what to believe.

Carol Rovento of Guttenberg, who has been attending St. John's with her husband for eight years, said that Heyndricks led "beautiful Masses" and had a good relationship with the church's youth.

"We were shocked. I can't believe it," Rovento said.

"I was shocked and flabbergasted. [Heyndricks] really seemed like a nice man," said Ann Antonetti, a parishioner in Guttenberg. "I guess you can say priests are only human, but it's really disgusting."

Others expressed similar feelings.

"It's very tough to keep faith in the church right now," said Kumar Shah of Guttenberg, who lives around the corner from St. John's and sent his two children to the church's schools.

Part of the uncertainty stems from the scarcity of details from Montreal, where a police spokesman said Saturday that the two were charged with soliciting sex from minors.

Police arrested them earlier in the month but are withholding many details to protect undercover officers still investigating the case, said Officer Ian LaFreniere, the spokesman.

LaFreniere would not even name those arrested, but said that one of the Americans - without saying which - was charged with putting a person in contact with a prostitute to solicit sex. Le Journal de Montreal reported that Heyndricks was the American charged with that crime.

The case came to light after last week's arrest in Montreal of two of the prostitution ring's suspected leaders, Gilles Gauthier, 50, and Germaine Bellefeuille, 70.

Montreal has a bit of an anything-goes reputation, similar to that of New Orleans. LaFreniere said much of the suspected illegal activity took place in Le Village Gai, the city's well-known red-light district. LaFreniere said many of the men who patronize prostitutes there are Americans who are up to date on the scene.

Asked how the Americans become aware of illegal activity, he said that information is being withheld for now and that more details will be released "as soon as the operation is complete."

"There will be more arrests," said LaFreniere.

If convicted, Heyndricks and Giblin face five years in prison on each charge, although LaFreniere said Canadian courts rarely impose the full sentence in prostitution crimes.

The Journal also reported that the priests were arrested between July 15 and 17. Citing the ongoing investigation, Montreal police would not confirm or deny that time period.

Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese, which includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, said church officials are trying to learn more about the charges against the two priests and added that Giblin and Heyndricks had agreed on their own to step down from their ministries.

"This is still very early in the investigation, so there is a lot of information that has not been developed yet," said Goodness in a telephone interview Saturday. "We are still finding out bits and pieces of information from the events in Canada."

He said neither priest had been accused of sexual misconduct previously but that church officials will take a fresh look into their pasts.Pope John Paul II has been visiting Toronto for World Youth Day, but Goodness said the two priests were not in Canada because of that or any official church business. Therefore, Goodness said, the diocese will not provide a lawyer or bail money for either priest. The priests paid 1,000 Canadian dollars bail - approximately $631 American - before being released from jail, Canadian media reports said.

They are scheduled to reappear in a Montreal criminal court Oct. 2.

Neither police nor church officials had any knowledge of the priests' lawyers Saturday. Goodness said both men had left church housing and that their whereabouts were not known Saturday.

Goodness would not discuss how many priests in the archdiocese have been accused of sexual misconduct.

Giblin, a former professor at Seton Hall University, is retired and last worked for Holy Rosary Church in Edgewater. He served as headmaster of Seton Hall Prep in the 1980s. The school's auditorium is named after him, and students are honored each year through "The Rev. William Giblin Outstanding Senior Participants in the Activities Program."

Founded in 1856, the school is the oldest Catholic prep school in New Jersey, its Web site says.

Giblin, who was ordained as a priest in 1959, also briefly served as a parish priest at St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge, church officials confirmed.

Heyndricks was a lay teacher at St. Joseph's elementary school in Oradell from 1973 to 1977. After he became a priest, he served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Ridgewood.

In his last church newsletter, written Tuesday and distributed to parishioners Saturday, Heyndricks told worshipers that they must work, like King Solomon, to act without malice.

"Each of us should be thirsting for God's gift of wisdom," Heyndricks wrote. "With it, we can act, as did Solomon, with an understanding heart."

 
 

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