Bedford-Stuyvesant Pastor Removed Over Allegation of Sexual Abuse

The Tablet
May 16, 2009

On April 24, 2009, a complaint of sexual abuse against Father Joseph Agostino, C.M., pastor of St. John the Baptist parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, was reported to the Diocese of Brooklyn's Victims Assistance Hotline 1-888-634-4499. The complaint was immediately referred to the Kings County District Attorney's office.

The Congregation of the Mission, Father Agostino's order of priests, subsequently informed Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio that it has launched an investigation into allegations of abuse by Father Agostino, and that he was removed from ministry pending the outcome of the investigation.

Father Agostino denies the allegations.

In 2003, a report of sexual abuse was made against Father Agostino by the same individual who has made the new allegation. At that time, the individual did not indicate that he was a minor when the alleged abuse took place.

Additionally, an investigation conducted by the Congregation of the Mission determined that there was not then sufficient evidence to support the allegations. As a result, Father Agostino was not removed from his position. Bishop Thomas V. Daily, then Bishop of Brooklyn, also met with the alleged victim in 2003, and the Congregation of the Mission's investigation and decision were upheld.

On April 24, the individual presented new information that indicated he was a minor at the time of the alleged abuse. He also presented more specific and detailed information than was previously reported. This has prompted the new investigation and Father Agostino's removal from ministry at this time.

The Diocese of Brooklyn's Victim Assistance Coordinator, Sister Ellen Patricia Finn, O.P., stated she has been in regular contact with the victim and that he is availing himself of services made available by the Diocese.

The Very Rev. Michael J. Carroll, C.M., Provincial of the Congregation of the Mission, said, "While at this time these are allegations, the fact that they have been made shame all of us in the Congregation. If true, these actions are indefensible and unacceptable."

Father Carroll spoke to the St. John the Baptist parish community last Sunday, May 10.

In a letter to the people of the parish, Bishop DiMarzio asked parishioners to pray for all victims of abuse by clergy.

"The facts here remain to be established," he wrote. "Nevertheless, on behalf of the Diocese and in my own name, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering that has been inflicted upon victims of abuse by any priest. As Catholic Christians it is confusing how any priest, a minister of Christ's love, could commit acts of evil against young people. We are all ashamed. At the same time, the courage and strength of those victims that come forward is to be greatly admired."


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