Archdiocese Plans Church Trial for Ex-Pastor Accused of Abuse

By John Chadwick
The Record [Bergen County, NJ]
July 21, 2004

The Newark Archdiocese is planning to conduct a church trial for a former Ho-Ho-Kus pastor accused of sexually abusing a minor.

If found guilty, the Rev. William J. Dowd could be removed from public ministry or the priesthood.

Parishioners at Dowd's former church - St. Luke's - were told the news Sunday, said Jim Goodness, spokesman for the archdiocese.

Dowd, 64, served as the pastor from 1997 to April 2002, when he was placed on a leave of absence. He was one of roughly a dozen North Jersey priests implicated during the 2002 church crisis by accusers who came forward after years of silence.

The accusation was initially reviewed by a panel convened by the archdiocese, which determined it was credible and referred it to Rome for further investigation. The Vatican decided a church trial was warranted.

Dowd has never been charged by secular authorities, and the accusations are thought to fall beyond the statute of limitations.

"There's no assumption of guilt, and people shouldn't draw any inference from this," said Goodness. "The [Vatican] has decided there should be a process that Father Dowd should follow."

Even so, Dowd won't be returning to the parish. A new pastor was installed July 11. Goodness said Dowd's term had expired and that a new, permanent pastor was sorely needed.

A church trial is essentially a disciplinary proceeding before a panel of priests. Dowd has retained a lawyer trained in the church's legal tradition and will mount a defense.

Goodness has declined to discuss the specifics of the accusation except to say that it dates back many years.


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