Priest Disciplined in Sex Abuse Case
Woman, 59, Says She Was Molested in Early 1960s

By John Chadwick
The Record [Bergen County NJ]
January 29, 2004

A North Jersey priest accused of molesting a teenage girl more than four decades ago has been barred from working publicly as a priest, the Paterson Diocese said Wednesday.

The Rev. John H. Dericks, 88, a former pastor at Holy Spirit Church in Pequannock, can no longer celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments, or preach the Gospel, said Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for Bishop Frank J. Rodimer.

The diocese stopped short of saying Dericks was guilty.

"This precept has been issued, not to punish, but to bring about healing for [the accuser] and to uphold the integrity of the church and the priesthood," Rodimer said in a statement.

The bishop added that Dericks can still administer last rites and the Sacrament of Penance in an emergency situation.

Dericks' accuser, Cheryl Christopher of Passaic, said Wednesday that she was disappointed. She said Dericks should have been assigned to a monastery, where he would live a life of prayer and penance and receive supervision. Instead, she said, he lives on a scenic property that he owns in Sussex County.

"He lives on this paradise," she said. "I think they let him off the hook."

Christopher, now 59, said she was abused by Dericks for two years in the early 1960s. She was a student at DePaul Diocesan High School in Wayne. She also said Dericks carried on an affair with her mother.

Dericks, who couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday, has denied the allegations. Even so, he paid Christopher a $25,000 settlement in the early 1990s.

With the church crisis exploding in 2002, Christopher asked the diocese to take disciplinary action against Dericks.

A panel of lay people and priests reviewed her accusations, concluded they were credible, and sent them to Rome for further investigation. But the Vatican waived a church trial for Dericks, citing his advanced age.

The Rev. Kenneth Lasch, a Mendham priest serving as an adviser to Christopher, said he was gratified that the diocese restricted Dericks from public ministry.

"This clearly suggests something serious happened," Lasch said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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