OF METUCHEN NJ
Accused Priests and Seminarians: 18 (does not include allegation(s) against 1 deacon; "Diocesan and civil investigations concluded that 3 allegations involving 3 priests were unfounded")
Total Priests: 990 ("clergy and seminarians who work or have worked in the diocese")
Allegations: 29 (including allegation(s) against 1 deacon)
Settlements, Legal and Medical Fees: $795,000
Bishop's Statement on John Jay Report
February 21, 2004
Contact: Joanne Ward
732-562-1990 ext. 1525
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Later this week, you will be reading and hearing about the results of a survey on the causes and scope of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy in the United States . The survey, which has no counterpart in any other religious or secular institution, was commissioned by the National Review Board, recently established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The survey was made of all dioceses in the United States and covers allegations of abuse received by dioceses since 1950. The Diocese of Metuchen fully cooperated with the requests of John Jay College.
The figures likely to result from a survey of nearly 200 dioceses and covering more than half a century will, at first glance, seem staggering and will no doubt be treated sensationally in many quarters. I recognize that they will also raise legitimate concerns and questions among the Catholic faithful, clergy and laity alike. In the spirit of transparency that I have tried to make a hallmark of our Diocese's handling of this important and complex issue, I want to share with you what the Diocese of Metuchen reported to the John Jay researchers.
The John Jay survey asked for information on all allegations of the abuse of minors by clergy, whether the allegation turned out to be credible, whether the credibility of an allegation could not be determined because of the death of the priest or the subsequent non-cooperation of the accuser, or whether it was determined that an allegation was unfounded. After examining the files of 990 clergy and seminarians who work or have worked in the Diocese of Metuchen, we reported a total of 29 allegations involving 18 priests and one deacon. (All information regarding the allegations was already given to the offices of the appropriate county prosecutors.)
The above figures can be broken down in the following way:
• In the cases of three priests of the Diocese involving eight allegations, the sexual abuse was admitted by the priest or determined in a court of law. One of the priests is deceased, one is in jail, and the third is not in ministry.
• A single allegation was made against a priest of the Diocese who was removed from ministry and subsequently left the priesthood.
• Two allegations were brought against a former priest of the Diocese; we understand his current diocese is taking appropriate action.
• Two allegations were brought against a priest of another diocese who was assigned to one of our parishes at the time of the alleged abuse, but was not working in the Diocese when the allegations were received. The priest is not in ministry.
• Single allegations were made against two priests of other dioceses working in the Diocese of Metuchen when the allegations were received. The priests were immediately removed from their assignments. One is not in ministry; the other left the country and his whereabouts are unknown.
• Single allegations were received against three priests who are deceased. Regrettably there was no opportunity to determine whether the allegations were credible.
• The Diocese is in the process of investigating eight allegations involving four priests and one deacon. None of the accused is in ministry.
• Finally, Diocesan and civil investigations concluded that three allegations involving three priests were unfounded.
In sum, 1.01% of the clergy who have worked in the Diocese of Metuchen since its establishment in 1981 have been the subject of allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor deemed to be credible by the Diocese and/or civil authorities.
The statistics given above and their context are not meant to minimize in any way the problem of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. One case of abuse is one case too many; at the same time, I believe it is important that the faithful of the Diocese be assured that sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is not a rampant problem, and that priests and deacons are no more likely to abuse children than other adults.
The abuse of children by clergy and other Church personnel has taken a terrible toll, first and foremost on victims, but also on the resources of the Church. Our Diocese has spent $795,000 in settlements and legal and medical fees associated with the above allegations. (This figure includes the Diocese's share of the previously announced $800,000 settlement reached in 2002 with ten claimants.) I believe we have taken real steps to address this problem—including more thorough reporting policies, the expansion of our own review board, and the institution of safe environment training and criminal background checks for all who are in regular contact with children—but we must continue to remain committed to eradicating the sexual abuse of children to the extent that this is humanly possible. These are, after all, not only our children; they are the children of God.
With the hope that this letter will help you to better understand the conclusions of the John Jay survey, and asking your continued prayers for our Diocese as we continue our efforts to respond with justice and mercy to perhaps the greatest challenge in our history, I remain
Sincerely in the Lord,
Most Rev. Paul G. Bootkoski
Bishop Bootkoski advises parishioners of numbers reported for John Jay study
By Rayanne Damiano
In a letter set to be read at Masses Feb. 21 and 22 throughout the diocese’s parishes, Bishop Bootkoski states that a study commissioned by the National Review Board and conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City will soon be released indicating the scope and incidence of the allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy in the United States since 1950.
Noting that the diocese cooperated fully with the study, Bishop Bootkoski writes, "In the spirit of transparency that I have tried to make a hallmark of our diocese’s handling of this important and complex issue, I want to share with you what the Diocese of Metuchen reported to the John Jay researchers."
According to the bishop, 1.01 percent of the clergy who work or have worked in the diocese have been the subject of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor deemed to be credible by the diocese and/or civil authorities.
According to the letter, the survey upon which the pending study was based, asked for all allegations of the abuse of minors, regardless of whether that allegation was or could ever be determined credible (i.e. death of the cleric or subsequent non-cooperation of the accuser). After examining the files of 990 clergy and seminarians who work or have worked in the Diocese of Metuchen since its establishment in 1981, the diocese reported having 29 allegations involving 18 priests and one deacon.
In addition to providing a breakdown reflecting the status of each of the 19 accused clergy members, the bishop’s letter also reports that the diocese has had to pay $795,000 in settlements and legal and medical fees associated with the allegations.
While stressing that "one case of abuse is one case too many," the bishop states, "At the same time, I believe it is important that the faithful of the diocese be assured that sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is not a rampant problem, and that priests and deacons are no more likely to abuse children than other adults."
Bishop Bootkoski writes, "I believe we have taken real steps to address this problem – including more thorough reporting policies, the expansion of our own review board and the institution of safe environment training and criminal background checks for all who are in regular contact with children – but we must continue to remain committed to eradicating the sexual abuse of children to the extent that is humanly possible."
The bishop closes his letter by asking all parishioners for their continued prayers, "As we continue our efforts to respond with justice and mercy to perhaps the greatest challenge in our history."
Dioceses release abuse investigation results
Paterson and Metuchen reports are part of Catholic Church's sex scandal fight
By Jeff Diamant
Allegations from 56 people against 30 priests and one deacon were deemed credible, the diocese reported in today's edition of the Beacon, its weekly newspaper. In all, 71 accusations were lodged from 1950 to 2002 against 39 of the 737 priests in the diocese, which serves Morris, Sussex and Passaic counties.
The highest number of incidents allegedly occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, when 47 accusers came forward, the diocese said.
The Diocese of Metuchen also offered a glimpse of its own history of sex abuse. In today's edition of its newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, the diocese said that from 1950 to 2002, 1 percent of its 990 clergy and seminarians were credibly accused of sexual abuse involving minors, and that the diocese paid $795,000 in settlements, legal and medical fees.
The Metuchen Diocese was created in 1981, but its figures include accusations from parishioners at churches that were at the time part of the Trenton Diocese. Those churches are now within Metuchen's boundaries of Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties.
Paterson and Metuchen are the first two New Jersey dioceses to make public the results of their historic investigations into sex abuse by clergy.
The internal surveys are part of the Catholic Church's effort to disclose the national scope and cost of sex abuse by priests in the wake of a scandal in which bishops were accused of covering up the magnitude of the problem.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops next week is expected to release a national report containing figures from most of the 195 dioceses in the United States.
Reaction to the figures released yesterday was split. Some said the disclosures are an unprecedented moment for an otherwise secretive church and are in the repentant spirit of Lent, which begins Wednesday.
"We priests know that much more is expected of us since the Lord has given us such a high calling," Paterson Bishop Frank Rodimer wrote in his column in the Beacon.
Rodimer, who has faced criticism for his handling of abusive priests, said that although the figures are disturbing, their release is "in the interest of openness and accountability, of identifying the extent of the problem, and of obtaining information that will help us in making sure that it will not reoccur in the future."
Members of a group representing the accusers, however, said Rodimer did not go far enough in his report. They said he should have followed the lead of bishops in Los Angeles and Baltimore and published the names of priests accused and not just numbers. In the past two years, the Paterson Diocese has released the names of priests accused of abuse.
"The people who allowed these numbers to materialize are the same people in charge now, and they're not doing what they can to prevent sex abuse," said Buddy Cotton, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. "These numbers are historically significant, and they're ghastly and gruesome."
Others said it is unlikely the figures represent every incident of abuse that occurred in the diocese over the past 50 years.
"Like with any crime, there are unreported incidents," said Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for the diocese. "I think that in the last two years especially, victims groups and the dioceses have encouraged people to come forward ... but there are people who find it very, very difficult to come forward."
The Paterson Diocese includes the New Jersey church that apparently has seen the most allegations -- St. Joseph's in Mendham, from which more than 15 people accused the former Rev. James Hanley of abusing them.
Hanley was the only priest named in yesterday's report, which said he faced 17 accusations that accounted for the bulk of the 25 made throughout the diocese from the 1970s.
Hanley's case has shamed diocesan officials, who have said they did not learn of the pastor's misdeeds until 1985, when a young parishioner and his parents made the initial accusation. Church officials, however, did not notify law enforcement at that time.
No criminal charges were filed against Hanley because the statute of limitations had expired by the time diocese officials reported the alleged abuse to authorities many years later.
The diocese forced Hanley to retire in 1988, but it was not until last year, after mounting pressure from victims, that Hanley was removed from the priesthood. Rodimer, who was bishop at the time, has acknowledged he underestimated the seriousness of the allegations until it was too late to prosecute.
Rodimer also has said Hanley has admitted to abuse.
In his column, Rodimer said he never meant to protect abusers, "and if I have done so, or even seem to anyone to have done so, I deeply regret it and apologize."
Earlier this week, CNN, based on a draft copy of the national figures, reported that more than 11,000 people have accused 4,450 priests of sexual abuse since 1950. Researchers conducting the survey, however, later said CNN's report was based on an incomplete version of the survey.
It was unclear how the percentage of Paterson priests credibly accused, 4.2 percent, will compare with the national figure.
Although the national survey will include just aggregate numbers, many dioceses, as Paterson did yesterday, are releasing their own numbers.
In the Metuchen Diocese, a letter from Bishop Paul Bootkoski, with more detailed figures on the diocese's history of sex abuse, will be read at Masses this weekend. The Newark Archdiocese plans to release its numbers Feb. 26.
The national survey was a provision of the Dallas Charter that bishops adopted in 2002 to try to reduce clergy sex abuse after a scandal implicated many of them for protecting abusive priests from law enforcement or for moving problem priests to other parishes.
A study released last month said 90 percent of the Roman Catholic dioceses in America -- including all five in New Jersey -- have complied with the charter, which also calls for better investigations of abuse claims and zero-tolerance policies for abusive clergy.
Jeff Diamant covers religion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-1547.
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