Bishop Removes N. Plainfield Priest after Abuse Charge Arises

By Jeff Diamant
Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
July 12, 2005

The pastor at St. Joseph's Church in North Plainfield has been removed after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen conducted a preliminary investigation of an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the mid-1980s.

The Rev. John Casey has been accused of committing a single act of abuse 18 years ago while he was parochial vicar at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in New Brunswick, said Joanne Ward, a diocese spokeswoman, who declined to provide the accuser's gender.

In a letter read to St. Joseph's parishioners on Sunday, Bishop Paul Bootkoski said Casey has denied the allegation, but that after a preliminary investigation, "it is the conclusion of the professional investigator and the Diocesan Review Board, and it is my own conclusion, that the charges are not without merit."

Bootkoski said that in keeping with church law, he has forwarded the case to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, which will review it before any permanent action is taken against Casey.

Bootkoski also said in the letter that the diocese reported the allegation to local law enforcement, which investigated but determined the statute of limitations had expired.

Casey's removal should be seen as "a temporary and precautionary measure" because he "has not been convicted of any civil or ecclesiastical crime," Bootkoski said in the letter.

"There is the possibility that he will be found not guilty of this charge and be reinstated as a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen in good standing," Bootkoski's letter said.

Bootkoski, praised three years ago by a national victims group as the Catholic prelate who had best handled the clergy sex abuse crisis, wrote that informing a parish about alleged wrongdoing by a priest is "perhaps the most difficult thing I have been called upon to do as your bishop."

"It is particularly painful when that conduct involves an offense as serious as the sexual abuse of a minor and when the pastor has otherwise served his parish as long and as well as your own pastor, Father John Casey," Bootkoski wrote.

Casey, 47, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ordained in 1984, he served at St. Philip and St. James Parish in Phillipsburg from 1984 to 1986, at St. Peter's in New Brunswick from 1986 to 1988, at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen from 1988 to 1991, and at St. Joseph's in North Plainfield since 1991.

The Metuchen diocese sent Bootkoski's letter to all of its priests and plans to publish it in the Catholic Spirit, the diocese's newspaper, later this week, said Ward, the diocese spokeswoman.

Bootkoski has named the Rev. Edward Edwards as temporary parish administrator. He has worked at the parish on weekends.


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