Church Elaborates on Priest's Dark Past
'Sexual Misconduct' Cost Him His Duties
By Margaret McHugh
December 31, 2004
A suspended priest charged with molesting teenage boys while working in Morris County had been blackballed 10 years ago by the Archdiocese of Newark when church officials determined he had committed "sexual misconduct" against two males, an archdiocesan spokesman said yesterday.
Richard Mieliwocki, 58, left the Catholic church and became a social worker, continuing to deal with young men. He avoided having his license suspended in 1999 for inappropriate behavior by agreeing to weekly monitoring for three years, a consent order showed.
Mieliwocki's past only now is catching up to him, and his case shows how someone with a checkered history can move from job to job without detection. Two of his employers said they knew nothing of the allegations against Mieliwocki when they hired him.
"He went under the radar screen, and he's been passed along and passed along. There's something unconscionable about that," said the Rev. Joseph Hennen, director of the Daytop Village drug-treatment center in Mendham. Authorities say Mieliwocki victimized four of the center's residents.
Newark Archdiocesan spokesman Jim Goodness revealed yesterday that Mieliwocki was removed from duty in February 1994 after the archdiocese found credence in two men's claims that Mieliwocki abused them beginning in 1988 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange.
Mieliwocki, who in 1994 was at the Church of St. Joseph the Carpenter in Roselle, was placed on administrative leave for six months and ordered to undergo counseling, Goodness said. Mieliwocki was told he would never again be allowed to minister to people.
"These restrictions did not sit well with him. He then walked away," Goodness said. Goodness confirmed the archdiocese awarded $60,000 to one of Mieliwocki's accusers. In 2002, the allegations were reported to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, he said.
None of the organizations that hired Mieliwocki as a social worker ever contacted the archdiocese, Goodness said. "Had anyone contacted us, we would have reported that there were allegations," Goodness said.
A person answering the phone at Mieliwocki's Madison home hung up when a reporter tried to reach Mieliwocki last night.
In late 1996 or 1997, while working at a Clifton mental health facility, Mieliwocki gave a client capsules saying they were "black market drugs that would both stimulate him sexually and serve to relax him," according to the consent order. The pills were actually melatonin, a sleep aid.
Mieliwocki also tried to counsel the man about his sexual orientation, which, according to the order, was beyond the realm of the therapy sessions.
In June 1999, the state Board of Social Work Examiners put Mieliwocki on three years probation for professional misconduct.
His probation, however, didn't come to the attention of his next employer, Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen, until two years after he began working at the organization's Cedar House, a group home for troubled youths in Bernards Township.
Marianne Majewski, the executive director of Catholic Charities, said yesterday Mieliwocki was "immediately discharged" when the agency learned of it in 2002. Mieliwocki had been hired in 2000 after saying he was a priest looking for a career change, Majewski said.
Daytop's Hennen said he didn't know Mieliwocki had been a priest, that he had been on probation, or that Catholic Charities had fired him when Daytop hired him in October 2002.
"This floors me. We need to change the law so this nonsense stops," said Hennen.
Daytop conducted a background check on Mieliwocki, confirming his prior employment, but never questioned his social worker license because it was valid, Hennen said.
Carolann Kane-Cavaiola, who heads the Division of Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services, said she will meet with the state's largest providers to explain how they can learn of disciplinary action taken against licensed professionals. The information is public.
In late 1999 or early 2000, Mieliwocki wrote to the archdiocese seeking to be re-assigned, Goodness said. The church refused, "and that was the last we ever heard from him," Goodness said.
In November 2003, the archdiocese officially suspended Mieliwocki, Goodness said.
During his 22 years of active service, Mieliwocki was assigned to churches in Garfield, Midland Park, Roselle, South Orange and Westfield, and he was chaplain at Roselle Catholic High School from 1991 until 1992, Goodness said.
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