Salesian Priest Arrested in New Jersey Abuse Allegedly Took Place in Milwaukee
Retired Priest Reveals Allegations
By Sam Lucero
June 10, 2004
ST. FRANCIS — A religious order priest who once resided in Milwaukee was arrested June 3 in New Jersey by detectives from the South Amboy, N.J., and Milwaukee police departments. Fr. Simon Palathingal, 61, is charged with four counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child stemming from alleged incidents that took place in Milwaukee.
According to a criminal complaint against Fr. Palathingal, the priest allegedly abused Nicholas Janovsky, now 23, in the summer of 1990 until June 1991. The abuse allegedly took place at the priest's residence, Jordan House, 4040 North 66th St., a residence owned by Our Lady of Sorrows Parish which, at the time, was rented by the Society of the Divine Savior religious order as a home for retired priests. Janovsky, now living in Florida, was 9 and 10 at the time.
Fr. Palathingal was ordained as a priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco. Br. Tom Dion, treasurer of the Eastern Province of the Salesians of Don Bosco in New Rochelle, N.Y., said Fr. Palathingal belongs to the order's Bangalore province in India.
According to the Home News Tribune in East Brunswick, N.J., Fr. Palathingal was serving at St. Mary Parish in South Amboy, in the Diocese of Metuchen, at the time of his arrest. He had petitioned the diocese to seek incardination as a diocesan priest. Upon learning of the priest's arrest, Metuchen Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski revoked Fr. Palathingal's faculties to minister there and terminated his application to become a diocesan priest.
Fr. Palathingal served in the Metuchen Diocese since December 2001. Prior to arriving in New Jersey, he served at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in Lake Charles, La., according to the Home News Tribune. He received a graduate degree in journalism from Marquette University in 1993.
Kathleen Hohl, director of communications for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, said Fr. Palathingal did not have any official archdiocesan assignment or affiliation while he was in Milwaukee.
She said the archdiocese received information regarding the allegation against the priest "and that was immediately turned over to the Milwaukee District Attorney's Office, which follows our standard procedure."
"In this case, the statute of limitations had not expired because he had left the state," added Hohl.
Fr. Palathingal was being held in New Jersey. The district attorney's office is seeking a $1 million cash bail and surrender of the priest's passport. Each count against the priest is a Class B felony, and if convicted he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
In an unrelated case, Fr. Eugene Kreuzer, 78, a retired priest of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, wrote a letter to members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Paris, located in Walworth County, acknowledging allegations of child sexual abuse 30 years ago. The letter was published in the parish bulletin and appeared the weekend of April 24 and 25. He served as pastor there from 1971 to 1993.
According to Hohl, the archdiocese's communications director, Fr. Kreuzer's priestly ministry has been restricted since the archdiocese learned of the allegations.
"There are four components of his restriction," she said. "He is restricted from all contact with minors. He is to have no public ministry, including celebration of the Eucharist. His confessional faculties were withdrawn, with no pastoral counseling. He is to live a life of prayer and penance."
Fr. Kreuzer's letter was precipitated by his attendance at weekend liturgies at St. John the Baptist. At the archdiocese's request, he stopped attending services in Paris. When parishioners inquired about his recent absence, Fr. Kreuzer issued the letter.
"He was a very recognizable, outgoing person," said Hohl. "Having been pastor there, there was a concern that people would misconstrue his appearance. That was why the archdiocese asked that he stop participating in that parish — because of both the restrictions and because people would misunderstand his presence there."
In his letter to parishioners, Fr. Kreuzer wrote: "There were allegations of my sexual abuse of minors some 30 years ago in a different parish. There was never an allegation of any abuse here at St. John's. I express remorse and repent of these actions."
Fr. Jim Volkert, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, said parishioners were surprised to learn of the abuse allegations.
"They want to be supportive of Fr. Gene and they also want to support any victims of those who have been abused," he said.
Fr. Kreuzer was ordained May 31, 1952, and served as associate pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Milwaukee. According to archdiocesan records, he took a sick leave in October 1969 and was named pastor of St. John the Baptist March 30, 1971. He did not serve in any other parish.
Hohl said that no new allegations have been made against Fr. Kreuzer, and offered no information about the alleged victims "in order to protect their identity."
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