July 24, 2003 -- Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey (Roman Catholic) Continues to Re-Victimize Survivor of Clergy Sex Abuse One Year after Meeting with Bishop
August 2, 2003
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, is comprised of 377,000 Catholics located in three northern New Jersey counties. The present bishop of the diocese, Frank J. Rodimer, reached mandatory retirement age March 2003 and is still waiting for the Vatican to announce a replacement. Rodimer's legacy may be his inaction and lack of expertise in handling the clergy sex abuse crisis in his diocese.
Numerous allegations of clergy sex abuse have resulted in criminal trials and civil lawsuits with few actual victories for victims. In one case, a priest who allegedly fondled the genitals of a minor was reinstated when the bishop's handpicked diocesan review board stated that the elements of the allegation did not support further action. That accused priest was chaplain to a Boy Scout troop and allegedly used his position both as chaplain and priest to abuse a young male scout. His reinstatement again includes access to minors.
Steven Rabi, a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was eleven years of age when two priests employed by the Paterson diocese abused him. The abuse took place at St. Nicholas R. C. Church in Passaic, NJ. Both abusers are deceased. Joseph W. Molloy left his priesthood, married, raised and adopted children, and worked for the State of Florida as a child abuse investigator. While a priest, Molloy forced Rabi into oral sex, masturbation, and sodomy. When Rabi's story about Molloy was made public, members of Molloy's family threatened him with legal action. The diocesan attorney, Kenneth F. Mullaney, Jr., even gave a member of the Molloy family the contact information for Rabi and suggested an attorney in New Mexico. Family members of Molloy have taken no formal legal action.
The second priest, Francis X. Dennehy, remained a priest until his death. Rabi and a childhood friend were plied with gifts, taken to the movies, and spent overnights at the Dennehy family home in Denville, NJ, in exchange for secrecy and sexual acts. Rabi originally did not reveal Dennehy's sexual abuse since he had contacted the friend who did not want his life disrupted by the embarrassment and stigma of the sexual assaults he endured as a pre-teenager. To that end, Rabi decided to pursue disclosure on his own because he is convinced it will assist any other unknown victim abused by Dennehy to come forward.
At issue, Rabi has asked Rodimer and the diocese to compensate him for any costs associated with therapy, counseling, medication, and vocational rehabilitation. Through the diocesan attorney, Kenneth F. Mullaney, Jr., has repeatedly stated that the diocese will offer such compensation to Rabi and to his wife if Rabi feels it is "necessary." Additionally, Rabi suggested a contract and escrow account for payments since "it is obvious to me that Rodimer will retire, another bishop will come in, and, no doubt, Mullaney will also be out of a job as legal rep." "I have no real faith in some flippant offhanded verbal statement that they'll pay for it, just send us the bill, thing." Mullaney said that Rodimer cannot offer or commit to any monetary settlement because "for any number of reasons, if Bishop Rodimer had agreed to follow his (Bishop Bootkoski, Diocese of Metuchen, NJ who has helped victims financially) lead, Bishop Rodimer would have been crucified by any number of other groups."
Rabi fears that the "non-committal" means of receiving any assistance from the Paterson diocese is a ruse to offer no assistance at all. He speculates that if they pay a therapist or counselor directly, it also supports the possibility that the diocese has a proprietary interest and can gain access to therapist notes and files.
The largest problem Rabi has faced dealing with clergy sexual abuse is the amazement by Catholics that victims could keep silent about their abuse for so very long. Some question credibility; others feel it a means of "stealing from the Church" taking our money from the basket and stuffing it in your pockets. Others suggest that "just get over it, you've managed to this point"must be in it only for some quick money.
The re-victimization is felt often for Rabi. He has a website entitled "The Sins of the Fathers." He has a feedback form that cautions against sending him hate mail. "They tell me I am the devil, that they knew one or both of the priests involved in my abuse and that they were holy men." Some tell Rabi that he will "burn in hell for all eternity."
As a member of groups like SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), the Linkup and several other smaller peer-to-peer groups for clergy abuse victims and survivors, Rabi receives many letters and e-mails from those who support his efforts. "Catholic groups who want reform, who know from firsthand experience the need for bishops to be accountable, have told me they will help me in any way possible." Some groups have suggested picketing the diocesan offices, distributing leaflets to parishioners after worship on Sundays, and a mass media ad campaign. Rabi is content to play the "waiting game" realizing that good things come to those who wait.
Another individual also plays the waiting game. It can be assumed that Bishop Rodimer is less patient. He wants to retire so that he can "move away" from a church scandal it appears he so ineptly handled while at the seat of power for NJ Catholics. Will it affect his legacy? Historians will tell the story in the manner it needs to be told.
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