Victims Confront Disgraced Former Mendham Priest

By Maria Vogel-Short
Observer-Tribune [Mendham NJ]
February 2, 2006

Hanley Confrontation

MENDHAM —- Maple Avenue resident Lou Serrano, a retired New York City police officer, said Monday that his latest confrontation with disgraced former priest and admitted child molester James T. Hanley, was one of many between the two during the past 20 years.

Serrano and his son, Mark, were with 20 victims and their families who went to Hanley's McBride Avenue, Paterson, neighborhood on Sunday to circulate flyers warning residents that Hanley had moved to the neighborhood.

Serrano said he has been tracking Hanley for years after his son acknowledged in 1985 that he was a victim of sex abuse.

Hanley was a pastor from 1972-82 at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church on Route 24, in Mendham, where many of Hanley's 21 admitted victims lived. Hanley certified in a sworn statement in October 2003 that he abused 21 children while serving as a priest in several Morris County communities.

"Our purpose is to safeguard children," said Serrano.

Serrano's son was one of the first victims to come forward with abuse allegations in 1985.

"As long as he lives, I'll track him down. We had a warning wagon to make sure everyone in this new neighborhood knows that he's here. He lives near families with children and the name of the game is saving children. He's very devious, which most pedophiles are," Serrano said.

Hanley, 70, confronted the elder Serrano and the rest of the group after Hanley saw television cameras, stopped his car and approached the people standing near his home.

Hanley was shown in a videotape of the incident, with his face inches away from Serrano, screaming at the father of the victim, calling Serrano "a liar."

Hanley was never charged with any crimes because the statute of limitations for reporting had expired, said Gregory Gianforcaro, a Phillipsburg attorney who represented 20 of the 21 Hanley victims.

The law was changed in 1996 to eliminate the statute of limitations for first and second-degree sexual crimes against children, Gianforcaro said. The crimes occurred before the law was changed, Gianforcaro said.

The Paterson Diocese paid $5 million to the victims in a settlement for the lawsuit that never went to trial.

"We got there (in the Paterson neighborhood) in the nick of time," Paul Steidler, 43, of Reston, Va., said on Monday.

Steidler, a spokesman for the support organization, Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said SNAP routinely hands out leaflets in the area where accused rapist-priests live. Mark Serrano was among the founders of SNAP.

Steidler was one of the many victims handing out a "child sex abuser alert" flyer with Hanley's picture, name and address, Steidler said. Hanley moved to the second floor apartment about a month ago, near children, schools and homes, he said.

Steidler, one of the 21 victims in the settled lawsuit, said he lived in Mendham as a boy when Hanley gave him alcohol, displayed pornography and talked about masturbation.

Hanley was videotaped telling television and print reporters that he was a "manic-depressive and psychotic." Hanley was also videotaped claiming he molested 12 children, not 21.

"His sworn statement said otherwise," Gianforcaro said.

In the complaint against Hanley, filed in January 2004, Gianforcaro said he represented 20 of 26 victims, five of whom alleged being victimized by another priest. The settlement was reached in February 2005.

Asked why he provided a sworn statement attesting to raping about 21 children between 1968 and 1982, Hanley said on the videotape that he signed the paper because he couldn't afford a lawyer, because he wanted to end the lawsuit, and because they (the victims) wanted to be paid, according to the tape. .

Several opinions stated by Hanley on the tape did not reflect the facts, according to Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Paterson Diocese.

Hanley said on the tape that he receives a church stipend of $2,100 a month and that his church pension was taken from him.

Thompson said Hanley receives more money than that, and that he receives an unspecified amount in interest income from investments of the diocese. The stipend was segregated from the priest pension fund because Hanley was severed from the priesthood, Thompson said.

Canon law states that the bishop should make some provision for a priest who has been laicized, or defrocked, and has lost his means of making a living, Thompson said.

Hanley was already at retirement age when he was banished from the priesthood, Thompson said.

Hanley said in the tape that priests in good standing receive $1,000 more a month than he receives. Thompson, however, said priests in good standing do not receive the $1,000 a month more, as Hanley had claimed.

Hanley also said the diocese refused to provide treatment for him. Thompson said when Hanley left St. Joseph's, he received treatment for alcohol abuse and for his sexual problems. After leaving St. Joseph's, Hanley was assigned to a medical center in Albany, N.Y.

"There were a lot of lies stated at the press conference, but they came only from one person: Hanley," said Lou Serrano.

Thompson said the district has not tracked Hanley since he was laicized.

"These are Mr. Hanley's opinionated statements," said Thompson. "We didn't know until today that Mr. Hanley had moved."

Hanley is not required to report his address under the state's Megan's Law because he was never convicted of a sexual offense against a youth.

"Only prosecutors can execute it," said Thompson. "A prosecutor can go to a judge if he or she feels he is a danger to the community, but we can't take that initiative, nor can parents. Clearly, we can't declare public notification, that's up to a judge to declare public notification."

Hanley said on the tape that he has had seven nervous breakdowns. When confronted by a reporter about the pain the victims are experiencing, Hanley said on the tape, "They are in pain and so am I."

Also on the videotape, Patrick Kelly, 41, said he was one of Hanley's victims. Hanley admitted to sexually abusing him but not his brother, James.

"If you did it to me and my two other brothers, you did it to him. You're sick," said Kelly.

Kelly's brother committed suicide two years ago. Family members have said they believe the young Kelly's relationship with Hanley might have contributed to his suicide.

"Jimmy Kelly's blood is on your hands," Hanley told Patrick Kelly on the videotape. "I swear on my mother's grave that it was not Jimmy (that I molested)."

Yet, Hanley's statements throughout the interview on the tape were inconsistent. He alternately denied molesting and admitted molesting the victims.

The attorney for many of the victims said he was particularly concerned.

"Hanley was ingratiating himself with families in his new neighborhood and spent New Year's Eve with a family of three small boys. That is extremely troubling and disturbing because that is how he ingratiated himself 25 years ago with the families of my clients," Gianforcaro said.

"There is a host of children abused before 1996 whose perpetrators will never be brought to justice," Gianforcaro said.

Hanley admitted on the tape to abusing Ray Skettini, a Vernon man, when Hanley was posted at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pequannock.

Skettini, too, told Hanley on the tape that he was sick.

"I'm here because you need help. Who's watching you now?" said Skettini. "That's why we're here."


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