Bishop Reinstates Edison Priest

Home News Tribune [Edison NJ]
October 7, 2004

The Rev. George Farrell has returned to St. Matthew the Apostle R.C. Church in the township following an isolated incident of "inappropriate communications" over the Internet with a minor.

"He has been reinstated. He's returning to St. Matthew's in Edison," said Joanne Ward, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Metuchen. Farrell, who faced no criminal charges, will retain his previous position as assistant pastor.

The priest, who had taken a voluntary leave of absence last year, was reinstated by Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski following an evaluation by the Diocesan Review Board, which is charged with assisting the bishop in assessing allegations of sexual abuse and determining a cleric's suitability for ministry.

The bishop met with Farrell last month and notified him he had been reinstated, Ward said. A spokesperson for St. Matthew the Apostle Church on Seymour Avenue declined comment.

"I am not aware of any restriction placed on Father Farrell's return to St. Matthew's, but it's logical he would have been been told not to engage in any conversations with minors on the Internet," Ward said.

The review board evaluated Farrell after the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office last year investigated the matter and chose not to charge him. The Prosecutor's Office had referred his case to the state Division of Youth and Family Services' institutional abuse investigation unit, which generally handles cases involving child-care centers, adoptive homes, schools and churches.

The assistant supervisor of the DYFS unit notified the diocese last year that, based on the information provided, the unit had no jurisdiction over the matter.

The isolated incident involved a school setting, but the minor in the Farrell case was not a member of St. Matthew the Apostle parish or a pupil at St. Matthew's K-8 school in Edison. There was no physical contact between Farrell and the child, officials said.

The incident was alleged to have occurred in 1997, according to the letter from the DYFS investigation unit.

Farrell has served at other local churches and schools in Edison, Piscataway, New Brunswick and Sayreville since 1987. He served as associate director for the Metuchen chapter of the National Pastoral Musicians.

Farrell began teaching religion at the former St. Pius X Regional High School in Piscataway in 1987 and became a campus minister at St. Peter the Apostle High School in New Brunswick in 1990. He was an organist at Guardian Angels Church in Edison and became director of music at Our Lady of Victories Church in Sayreville in 1991.

After DYFS determined it did not have jurisdiction, the case was referred to the Diocesan Review Board. The board was established by the U.S. Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People following widespread reports of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The Diocese of Metuchen review board conducted an evaluation to determine if Farrell should return to the ministry. The board made a recommendation to the bishop.

The Diocesan Review Board consists of at least five Catholics of "outstanding integrity and good judgment," including at least one member who is a pastor. The majority of the board members are lay people who are not employed by the diocese.

In the Metuchen Diocese, Rev. Monsignor William Benwell, diocese vicar general; Rev. Monsignor John B. Szymanski, vicar general; Old Bridge Police Capt. Robert Bonfante; a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests; a retired Middlesex County Superior Court judge; a doctor from St. Peter's University Hospital; a family-practice specialist, and a certified sex therapist are among those who serve on the review board.


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