Priest Let Go from School amid Inquiry
By Troy Graham
St. Augustine Prep, a private all-boys school in Richland, N.J., hired a priest to teach senior religion this year despite warnings from the Diocese of Camden that he had been accused of sexual abuse and had been suspended from the ministry.
When the diocese learned last month that Frank Hudson had been hired anyway, the diocesan chancellor wrote to the school, saying it was "entirely inappropriate" to employ anyone facing an unresolved charge of sexual misconduct.
"And this is especially serious when we speak of employment in a Catholic school," Msgr. Peter M. Joyce wrote.
In a statement yesterday, the school said Hudson had been suspended as of Wednesday, the same day a reporter from The Inquirer called the diocese to ask about Hudson.
"Though no new allegations have come to light, the school has suspended Mr. Hudson until the validity of the allegation can be conclusively determined," the statement said.
Hudson, who is 61 and was ordained in 1974, declined to comment through a spokesman for the Augustinian Friars.
In July 2004, a man accused Hudson of molesting him in 1975, when Hudson was assigned to St. Mary's parish in Gloucester City. The diocese informed the Camden County Prosecutor's Office the next day.
The Prosecutor's Office wrote the accuser, who did not respond, said Bill Shralow, a spokesman for the office. Either way, he said, the statute of limitations would have expired and Hudson could not have been prosecuted.
Hudson has denied the allegation, according to the diocese.
Throughout his career, Hudson worked mainly in parishes, but he spent some time as a youth minister at Camden Catholic High School in the early 1980s. He also helped establish an addiction-treatment center in Blackwood in 1998 through Catholic Charities.
Hudson's last assignment was as an assistant pastor at St. John Vianney in Deptford. He applied for a leave of absence in 2001, said Andrew Walton, a spokesman for the diocese. The leave was for personal reasons, Walton said, adding it's not unusual for priests to seek time off to "recharge their batteries."
Typically, priests inform the diocese after a year of their intentions to return to the ministry. Hudson did not, Walton said. He then was considered "suspended without priestly faculties"—meaning he could not function as or present himself as a priest.
St. Augustine Prep, a high school with an enrollment of 550, first contacted the diocese about hiring Hudson in August 2004, the month after the accusation was made. The diocese warned the school about the accusation and the "irregularity" of Hudson's status in the priesthood, Walton said.
Hudson, a licensed therapist, was hired in December 2004 as a part-time counselor, the school said. The school is under the jurisdiction of an Augustinian order based in Villanova, not the diocese.
In March of this year, Bishop Joseph Galante met with the accuser, who lives out of state, and offered him counseling and other assistance. After the meeting, the bishop informed Hudson that "a return to ministry would be impossible," Walton said.
The bishop also asked Hudson to agree to be defrocked. Hudson refused, and the diocese plans to ask the Vatican to defrock him.
Although there is a presumption of innocence in the process, Walton said, "there's a threshold of credibility to the accusation."
St. Augustine Prep contacted the diocese again this August, and the diocese again urged the school not to hire Hudson.
"The school knew about the nature of the allegation, and the school
knew the seriousness of the accusation... and chose to ignore that information,"
Walton said, "and, in doing that, could have put young people at
In its statement, St. Augustine said "efforts are under way to ensure that no current students... had been harmed in any way."
The school also said Hudson was hired despite the diocese's concerns because the school believed the allegation "to be unsubstantiated." St. Augustine said it reconsidered after receiving the chancellor's October letter.
Michael Dolan, a spokesman for the Augustinian order, said the timing of Hudson's suspension was not related to a reporter's inquiry.
"As far as I know, this was the result of the letter," he said.
"It's been an ongoing process."
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