Molester's Neighbors Say Church Should Have Told Them

By Jeff Diamant
Star-Ledger [New Jersey]
January 31, 2006

For almost a decade after he was barred from serving as a Catholic priest for sexually abusing minors James Hanley lived in a senior citizens housing complex on Day Street in Paterson. But his move last month to a bigger apartment on McBride Avenue across town has his new neighbors questioning whether the church should have alerted residents and police to his presence. Church officials said they didn't know until last weekend that Hanley had moved, but even if they had, they said, they would not have said anything.

"He's a civil individual now. He's not a priest," Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli said yesterday. "He's been laicized. That's the furthest the church can go -- to basically disconnect someone from the priesthood."

On McBride Avenue, where Hanley lives in the upstairs apartment of a two-story house, his new neighbors had strongly different views.

"Of course (the diocese) should've known to say something," said Jaime Yocalca, who lives with four of his children across the street from Hanley's apartment. "They give us so many church bulletins, they should find room to mention this."

Hanley's was the most notorious clergy sex abuse case in New Jersey. The Paterson Diocese settled last year with 21 of his accusers, agreeing to pay $5 million in damages. In court papers, he admitted molesting about a dozen boys, mostly at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Mendham, where he served from 1972 to 1982.

Residents of his new neighborhood said they fear Hanley may molest again, especially after hearing that one neighbor who has three children and was unaware of Hanley's past invited him to his house for Christmas.

On Sunday, several of Hanley's victims -- after learning he was living in the area -- distributed leaflets about him to residents along McBride Avenue, a busy thoroughfare of single- and multi-family homes not far from Route 80.

Hanley admits to abusing boys, but blames his actions on illness -- alcohol, manic-depression and psychosis.


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