Ex-priest Allegedly Admits Molesting Teen

By Jeff Hager

December 30, 2008

The sign is gone now from the sidewalk in front of Isabella’s Restaurant calling on the people of Little Italy to “Keep Mike in Their Prayers”, but they are reminded of the former priest’s absence from nearby St. Leo’s Roman Catholic Church every day.

"You know... I go to church. Attendance is down. The events that he really used to push for, which brought the community together, they're just not happening any more," said Isabella’s co-owner, Daniel Stewart.

Father Michael “Mike” Salerno disappeared from St. Leo’s in November of 2007 amidst allegations that he had molested a 13-year old boy at a church in New York in the Seventies.

Word reached the parishioners at St. Leo's that the Pallentine Fathers' investigation had turned up evidence that Salerno had molested the young boy in the form of sealed envelopes handed out to each parishioner as they left Mass on Sunday.

ABC 2 News has obtained a copy of that letter, in which it’s alleged Salerno confessed that “he sexually abused the person in question a number of times over a period of years.”

"We're just all heartsick about it,” said parishioner Mary Grace Lintz as she left Tuesday’s morning mass, “true or not, and he apparently also admitted to it, and both he and the now fully-grown man I understand are in counseling."

A former alter boy, Daniel Stewart says he’s concerned the church has forgotten one of its primary beliefs in dealing with Salerno---forgiveness.

"That's 38 years ago,” said Stewart, Even the details of the confession... nobody knows, and you know what? Around here, nobody would care. They would welcome him back today, but that's not going to happen.”

And according to the Pallottines, Father Mike will never serve as a priest again.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.