Monsignor Removed from Parish after Admitting Misconduct from 30 Years Ago

By Peter Kadushin and Alison Gendar
New York Daily News
December 4, 2007

A Brooklyn monsignor has been yanked from his parish after admitting "inappropriate behavior" with up to five young people more than 30 years ago, authorities said.

Msgr. George Zatarga, 65, admitted allegations of sexual misconduct when he was a relatively new priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn in the late 1970s, according to a letter the Bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas DiMarzio sent to Zatarga's flock.

A law enforcement source said investigators also were checking out more recent abuse allegations. Zatarga served as chaplain at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn from 1971 to 1979, and chaplain at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens from 1979 to 1989.

An adult victim broke the silence with a call to the diocese's toll-free sexual assault hotline two weeks ago, authorities said.

Zatarga admitted the misconduct and resigned over the weekend as pastor of the American Martyrs parish in Bayside, Queens, a post he had held for the past two years.

None of the alleged abuse took place at American Martyrs, said diocesan spokesman Frank DeRosa. Diocesan officials declined to name where Zatarga worked when the alleged assault occurred.

"The faith is great but something obviously went wrong," said a parishioner at American Martyrs, who gave his name only as Michael. "There's a problem in the church right now and something needs to be done. It is unacceptable that he could do something like that."

Zatarga is at a counseling center outside of the diocese, and the allegations have been turned over to the Brooklyn district attorney's office for investigation, DeRosa said.

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse is five years, law enforcement sources said.

He has been placed on administrative leave, meaning that he cannot present himself as a priest, wear clerical garb, celebrate the Mass or administer sacraments publicly. He will be allowed to celebrate Mass privately.

Zatarga was ordained in June 1968. He left Archbishop Molloy to serve Christ the King Church in Queens from 1989 to 1999. He served as the vicar for senior priests - ministering to retired priests from 1999 to 2005 before coming to American Martyrs.

Other American Martyrs parishioners said Zatarga was known for taking month-long vacations, including a ski trip to Colorado, and for an offbeat sense of humor.



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