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  Priests Won't Face Charges Sex-Abuse Probe Is Complete

By Lonnie Mack
Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ)
May 20, 2003

MIDDLESEX COUNTY: An investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office into allegations of child-sexual abuse by clergy in the Diocese of Metuchen has determined no criminal charges will be filed.

"After careful review of information provided by the diocese, and based upon additional investigation conducted by the Prosecutor's Office, the diocese was informed that no criminal charges have been filed, nor are any being considered at this time," Julia McClure, first deputy assistant prosecutor, said yesterday.

McClure said the reasons for that determination include deceased suspects, victims and witnesses who did not wish to pursue criminal charges, events that were outside the statute of limitations or outside the jurisdiction of Middlesex County, and incidents which did not support criminal charges.

The prosecutor's investigation, diocese spokeswoman Joanne Ward said, does not resolve the status of several priests in the diocese who are on a leave of absence because of abuse allegations. The future of those priests will be determined by church law, she said.

Church law requires that the Most Rev. Paul G. Bootkoski, bishop of Metuchen, forward to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome all allegations of clerical abuse of minors which, in his opinion, contain a "semblance of truth," Ward said.

The congregation, she said, will advise the bishop on the course of action to be taken, which could include a canonical or church trial. If found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor, a priest could face dismissal, she said.

The diocese - which serves 522,719 Catholics in Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties - negotiated an $800,000 out-of-court settlement earlier this year with 10 people who alleged they had been sexually abused by five priests.

Claims were settled against Monsignor Michael Cashman, leader of St. James R.C. Church in Woodbridge; the Rev. John Banko of Milford, convicted of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy; Michael Santillo, a former Perth Amboy priest convicted of molestation, who died in state prison three years ago; the Rev. John Butler, former pastor of St. John Vianney R.C. Church in Colonia, accused of misconduct with a minor 40 years ago in Long Island, N.Y.; and Mark Dolak, former pastor of St. Matthias R.C. Church in Somerset.

Cashman's attorney, Raymond Gill, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Cashman took a voluntary leave of absence from St. James R.C. Church in Woodbridge last year after he was accused of sexually abusing two children at St. Ambrose R.C. Church in Old Bridge 24 years ago. Cashman, now staying with friends, is waiting for reinstatement.

The diocese's settlement, paid in February, came with no admission of guilt and no finding of fault on the part of the priests. Gill has said that was the only reason Cashman agreed to sign off on the document.

In explaining the settlement, Bootkoski said, "Refusing to treat the cases as a group and bringing some of them to trial would have produced litigation that could have severely strained the limited assets of the diocese."

 
 

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