Ex-Priest: Rodimer Knew about Sexual Abuse
Court Papers Say Bishop Persuaded Victim to Keep Quiet

By Eugene Mulero
Daily Record
August 27, 2004

[See excerpts from the Hanley deposition. See also Ex-Priest's Accusers Now Fight Diocese: Church Lawyers Say Suit Is Misdirected, by Jeff Diamant, Star-Ledger (11/2/04).]

MORRISTOWN -- Former priest James Hanley admitted molesting more than two dozen children and implicated then-Paterson Diocese Bishop Frank Rodimer in a cover-up of his abuses, according to court documents made public Thursday.

The documents -- a deposition given by Hanley as part of a lawsuit filed in January against Rodimer, the diocese and others by two dozen victims of childhood sex abuse -- contain detailed testimony by Hanley that he molested boys over several years and that Rodimer tried to prevent a church scandal by convincing one young victim to keep quiet.

"In approximately 1984, September, I received a call from the office to come down," Hanley says in the documents. "And the bishop told me that a young man had come forward to (other priests) that I had abused him while I was at St. Joseph's. And the bishop said his name was Mark Serrano. He said, 'Is this true?' and I said, 'Yes, bishop, it is.'

"I never denied it outright. (I) said yes, it's so.' The bishop said, 'Well, Jim, I want you to know that you're not the only one.'"

Members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, say they believe there is no other case against the church in the nation in which a child-molesting priest admits the scope of his crimes and a cover-up by his bishop.

The deposition was made public during a Thursday afternoon press conference outside Superior Court in Morristown after Gregory Gianforcaro, an attorney for the victims, filed a request that the court not dismiss the lawsuit.

The diocese has asked the court to dismiss the suit on grounds that the statute of limitations has expired.

Hanley's deposition can be used by Judge Deanne M. Wilson in deciding whether to dismiss the suit. The diocese has until Sept. 27 to respond to Gianforcaro's filing, after which the judge will review the submissions and schedule arguments on the motion to dismiss.

Rodimer retired last month and now lives in Rockaway Township. He has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment.

Kenneth Mullaney, the diocese's attorney, said he could not provide any statements on behalf of the retired bishop.

"This is a matter that is still in litigation. I have no comment whatsoever," Mullaney said.

Gianforcaro took Hanley's deposition in the former priest's apartment in Paterson on Oct. 4, 2003. Although he is no longer a priest, Hanley still receives a church pension.

"Startling revelations, which are included in the brief through recent statements by admitted child molester Rev. James Hanley, reflect the scope of his crimes against children in the church and the measures that Bishop Frank Rodimer took to cover up Hanley's long history of criminal activity," Gianforcaro said Thursday, in a prepared statement.

In the deposition, Hanley admits to abusing multiple children, but their names are blacked out in the documents released at the press conference. Only the name of alleged victim Mark Serrano was released. Serrano has been active in SNAP, and his mother read a statement from him at the press conference.

At the time of alleged abuse, Hanley was pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Mendham, part of the Paterson Diocese. The allegations of abuse involved students at St. Joseph's Catholic School during the 1980s.

Hanley said in the deposition that he did not remember exactly how many children he abused.

"I don't deny it, but with my alcoholism I would often have periods of blackouts and people would tell me later that I had done something in a blackout and I would have absolutely no recollection of doing it, so there is a possibility that if they said that I did these things, it would be true," Hanley said in the deposition.

Rodimer is not accused of abuse himself, but rather of failing to supervise abusive priests and of disregarding victims' complaints.

Hanley said in his deposition that Rodimer did not want Serrano to tell his parents about the abuse because he wanted to avoid a church scandal.

"I think he (Rodimer) felt in control of the situation as long as Mark (Serrano) didn't tell his parents," Hanley said.

Eventually, Serrano did tell his parents. They confronted Rodimer, who told them Hanley was receiving counseling -- which was not true at the time, Hanley said in his deposition.

Serrano said the abuse by Hanley has taken a heavy toll.

"One Hanley victim was lost to suicide last year," Serrano said in a statement read by his mother, Patricia, at Thursday's press conference. "Other victims of Hanley suffer today, from drug and alcohol addictions, broken relationships and careers, and other effects of the sexual abuse they endured in childhood."

SNAP, for which Serrano serves as a board member, called upon the court to allow the lawsuits to proceed based on the merits of the case presented in the brief.

Hanley was pastor of St. Joseph's until 1982. He was never prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired by the time law enforcement authorities were contacted about the allegations of sexual abuse. In 1987, the Paterson Diocese settled a lawsuit brought by Serrano and his parents for $350,000. The deal included a confidentiality agreement, which Serrano later broke.

Last year, the Vatican approved Hanley's petition for voluntary laicization. That decision came eight months after a charter approved by a national conference of Catholic bishops required that sex offenders either be removed from the priesthood, a process known as laicization, or live a life of penance.