Victim of Alleged Ocean County Priest Abuse Demands Trenton Diocese Action

By Rob Spahr
Press of Atlantic City
September 15, 2008

LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP After spending a year in anonymity, the 37-year-old Bass River Township man who accused a popular St. Theresa's Parish priest of sexual abuse last year went public Monday to call on the Diocese of Trenton to defrock his alleged abuser.

Chris Naples was surrounded by family and friends at the entrance to St. Theresa's Parish as he recounted how he met Father Terence O. McAlinden in the spring of 1985 while at a weekend retreat at the Jeremiah Retreat House in Keyport.

Naples said McAlinden began sexually abusing him soon afterward aboard his boat, the "Poorbox," and continued the abuse for more than a decade.

Father Terence McAlinden
Photo by Bill Gross

"Keeping this secret almost killed me," said Naples, adding he gathered his family and friends last year and told them of his secret all at the same time.

"I was devastated and horrified," his wife Patty said of her reaction to her husband's secret.

McAlinden introduced the couple, married them and even baptized each of the couple's two children.

"I was another layer of the abuse," she said of the big role McAlinden played in the couple's relationship.

According to Reverend Robert M. Hoatson, the founder and president of Road To Recovery, Inc., a Livingston-based group that was started by members of the clergy to help the survivors of clergy abuse, it is common for clergy members who are guilty of abusing children to stay in close contact with their victims throughout their lives.

Naples' father, Tony, was brought to tears while explaining what it's like for a father to learn that his son had been sexually abused.

"I support my son 100 percent," he said. "(McAlinden's) got to be defrocked."

After the Diocese of Trenton determined Naples' accusations to be "credible," Bishop John Smith promptly removed McAlinden from his position as pastor of St. Theresa's Parish and placed him on administrative leave until the case could be formally reviewed by the Vatican.

Naples said he has not heard from Smith in about a year, while he said McAlinden still lives close to the church and is intimidating members of the parish, especially senior citizens, in direct violation of his suspension.

"I call on Bishop Smith to take better control of this dangerous priest and predator, and I ask him to contact the Vatican to defrock McAlinden as soon as possible. "It is time the people of Little Egg Harbor Township and nearby towns demand that Terence McAlinden leave the area so children can be safer than they are now."

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office investigated the case, but since the alleged events occurred so long ago, the statute of limitations expired and prohibited the office's Sex Crimes Unit from being able to prosecute the case.

However, Hoatson said typically, when a victim like Naples comes forward, it encourages other victims to follow suit.

"We know of at least one other victim (also an adult male) who is choosing to remain anonymous at this point," Hoatson said. "Now we expect that more victims of McAlinden will come forward and possibly in record numbers."

Hoatson said his prediction of record numbers was due McAlinden having access to thousands of children through his duties as a priest.

While Naples' identity was kept secret from those outside the parish, many parishioners knew he was the accuser.

"I am still a member of this community and our children still attend CCD here," Patty Naples said. "Many people have been wonderful and supportive, but there are people in this parish who are willing to protect (McAlinden)."

It was that group of people who made in difficult for Naples to return to the church.

"It was intimidating coming back ," Naples said.

Naples chose his 37th birthday to come forward to tell his story of abuse, which he said was part of his healing process.

"It was time," he said. "It's a new year. It's a new life."


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