Paterson Diocese Rules Priest Molested Boy

By John Chadwick [Paterson NJ]
February 3, 2005

The Paterson Diocese has determined that one of its priests molested a Fair Lawn boy in the 1960s and should be removed from public ministry, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The ruling brings to a conclusion the first church trial held in North Jersey as a result of the clergy abuse scandal of 2002.

A panel of three priests found that the Rev. James A.D. Smith was "guilty of at least one act of sexual abuse of a minor," spokeswoman Marianna Thompson said in a statement.

Smith, in his 70s, is barred from celebrating the sacraments of the church, including communion.

"The penalty shall be permanent suspension of Rev. Smith's faculties as a priest," the statement said. "He may no longer represent himself as a priest or exercise any of the authorities or duties of ecclesiastical office."

Smith, who served in several parishes, including Sacred Heart in Clifton and Our Lady of Victories in Paterson, is expected to appeal the decision to Rome.

Trials in the Catholic Church are closed-door hearings that typically are used to handle annulments. But after the child abuse crisis exploded three years ago, American bishops were left with scores of accusations against priests that were too old to be handled in the criminal justice system. The bishops approved a disciplinary process that allowed several layers of review and culminated in a trial.

If a priest is found guilty of abusing a minor, the bishops must either remove him from public ministry or defrock him.

Thompson declined comment on why the panel chose to remove Smith from ministry.

The accusations against him first surfaced in 2002, when a man came forward after years of silence to say Smith repeatedly molested him as a boy. The man subsequently sued in Superior Court, and the diocese settled the suit for an undisclosed sum.

Now 55 and living in California, the man said Smith lured him into a sexual relationship that began when he was 12 and ended when he was 15. The man said he was molested more than 100 times from 1962 to 1966.

At the time, Smith was serving in the Clifton and Paterson parishes.


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