Group for Victims of Priests' Abuse Moves to Another Mendham Chuch
Grace Lutheran Gives SNAP Home after It Departs St. Joseph's

By Abbott Koloff
Daily Record
November 6, 2007

MENDHAM -- A support group for victims of abuse by priests says it has a new home after being told earlier this year it no longer would be allowed to meet at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic parish.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, says it will hold monthly meetings at Grace Lutheran Church. The group plans a candlelight march along Main Street tonight at 6 p.m. from St. Joseph's to Grace Lutheran to publicize the move. After the march, it will hold a meeting for abuse victims and their families.

Pat Serrano, SNAP's New Jersey family outreach director, said Grace Lutheran was one of three local churches that offered a meeting place for her group. She said SNAP waited until now to make a choice because group members held out hope that they would be allowed back to St. Joseph's.

"We waited five months for them to think it over," Serrano said. "We felt now was the time to let people know where we will be meeting. We have survivors showing up all the time."

SNAP sent out a press release Monday, referring to its move from St. Joseph's as an eviction. Paterson Diocese officials said this past June that the group was asked to move because the area where it met was being renovated for a pre-kindergarten program.

Local church officials were not immediately available for comment Monday.

SNAP officials say St. Joseph's was the only Catholic parish in the nation that hosted their meetings -- although they also say they don't typically ask Catholic churches to host them.

SNAP had been meeting at St. Joseph's since 2002, when Monsignor Kenneth Lasch, a nationally known victims' advocate who was then pastor of St. Joseph's, invited the group to meet there. The church had been at the center of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, with dozens of former parishioners saying they were abused as children by a former pastor.

Serrano said St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Mendham and Brookside Community Church in Mendham Township also offered to host SNAP meetings. She said typical meetings had been drawing about 18 people earlier this year, compared to the three dozen people who attended meetings several years ago.

James T. Hanley, St. Joseph's pastor for a decade until 1982, has admitted to abusing at least a dozen children at three Morris County parishes and was removed from the priesthood in 2003. He wasn't prosecuted because the statute of limitations ran out by the time authorities were notified. He recently spent a year in Hudson County jail on an unrelated weapons charge -- for waving a baseball bat during an argument with a hotel clerk.

Abbott Koloff can be reached at (973) 428-6636 or


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