Don't Scapegoat Father Lasch

Observer-Tribune [Paterson NJ]
March 2, 2006

The diocese of Paterson, including Bishop Arthur Serratelli along with the pastor of St. Joseph Church in Mendham, are systematically trying to discredit and ostracize the Rev. Kenneth Lasch.

Lasch was the pastor for 20 years at St. Joseph Church until he retired two years ago. There were certainly no tears shed in the diocesan offices when Lasch stepped down.

Thatís because the priest was among the most vocal supporters of people who had been sexually victimized by priests. Lasch was instrumental in forming the Survivors Network for people Abused by Priests (SNAP), the nationwide support group for victims of clerical sexual assault.

In large part, Lasch became so involved with the support group because one of his predecessors at St. Joseph Church, former pastor Robert Hanley, was found to have been a notorious sexual abuser.

Though he is no longer active with St. Joseph, Lasch has not stopped talking. In fact, he is as vocal as ever in calling for transparency in the church when it comes to exposing priests who commit sexual offenses.

It was only last year that Lasch was largely responsible for the resignation of the Rev. Philip Briganti who admitted, after much denials, that he had sent nude photos of himself over an Internet chat room.

There was never much made of it publicly by the diocese. Briganti was pretty much allowed to fade away into retirement while the members of the parish was largely left in the dark. For his efforts, Lasch was further ostracized by the diocese. He is not welcomed at St. Joseph and the current priest has gone as far as barring Lasch from performing marriages at the church.

Many members of the congregation at St. Joseph Church would like the whole scandal of clergy sexual abuse to just go away. They are embarrassed and angry and they would like to blame Lasch for keeping the issue alive and in the newspapers. Many no doubt think that the problem would disappear if people like Lasch would just shut up. Were it only so simple.

In fact the opposite is true. As long as people donít talk, as long as the courageous among us, like Lasch, donít speak up, the likelihood is that more people will be abused and their abusers will not be uncovered and removed from the church.

The church must live up to its commitment to acknowledge when there are problem priests and to be open about the matter.


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