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  Morris Priest Takes Leave after Allegation

By Brian T. Murray
Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
September 5, 2002

A man who accuses a 72-year-old Morris County priest of molesting him 40 years ago said through his lawyer yesterday that he came forward now because he discovered the priest works in a parish that operates an elementary school.

The Rev. James A.D. Smith, an associate pastor at St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Succasunna, agreed to go on administrative leave Friday because of the allegation.

The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office opted last week to take no action. The Diocese of Paterson, which oversees Catholic parishes in Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties, will now conduct an internal review of the charge to determine whether Smith should be permitted to resume his parish duties, said Kevin Mullaney, the diocese attorney.

"The diocese received a letter from the man's attorney last month accusing Smith and passed on the information to the prosecutor's office," Mullaney said. "We received a letter on Aug. 27 from acting Chief Assistant Prosecutor Joe DelRusso advising us that no prosecution will follow due to the fact the complaint was 40 years old."

Smith was first informed of the allegation last week, and he voluntarily agreed to be placed on administrative leave pending an evaluation and internal review by the diocese.

The priest, ordained 45 years ago, has been serving as an associate pastor at St. Therese, but he was not on staff at the St. Therese School on Main Street, where about 230 students attend pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.

"My client became aware that Smith was working in a parish that was attached to an elementary school, and he wanted to contact the church about the abuse so the church could take appropriate action to protect those children," said attorney Glenn Shivers of Cherry Hill, who is representing the accuser.

He declined to release his client's name, or to detail the allegations other than to say his client claims to have been repeatedly molested during the early 1960s. Smith was working at St. Jude Our Lady of Victory Church in Paterson at the time.

The Paterson Diocese has been among the most open of the five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey in handling sexual abuse complaints against clerics. At least four priests in the diocese have been placed on administrative leave pending internal reviews.

The Paterson Diocese also was the first in New Jersey to try to remove an accused cleric from the priesthood after the national conference of bishops met in Dallas on the church's sex scandal in June. The process, known as laicization, was initiated in June against the Rev. James T. Hanley, who has been accused of sexually abusing at least 12 children he met in three of the five parishes he served from 1962 until 1988.

 
 

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