|Diocese Warns Morris Parishes to Be on Lookout for Suspended Priest
By Abbott Koloff
January 13, 2009
A priest placed on administrative leave 15 years ago after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced has been passing himself off as a cleric in good standing in Morris County and elsewhere, Catholic church authorities said Tuesday.
George Costigan, 82, recently showed up at St. Matthew's parish in Randolph wearing clerical attire, even though he has been prohibited from doing so since 1994, said Ken Mullaney, an attorney with the Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese.
Mullaney said local police and school officials are being notified as a precaution. The diocese also sent an e-mail, obtained by the Daily Record, to local priests to be on the lookout for Costigan.
Monsignor James Mahoney, vicar general of the diocese, sent an e-mail on Jan. 9 asking priests for their help in a "sensitive matter." It said Costigan had been presenting himself as a priest at "several parishes … both in the diocese and outside the diocese." Mahoney directed in the e-mail that priests ask Costigan to leave, and then call the diocese.
"If he refuses to leave, then you must contact the local police so that he will be off the premises," Mahoney said in the e-mail.
Mullaney said Costigan, who has been living in the Randolph-Dover area, has been warned about passing himself off as a priest before, and told that he faced the possibility of losing his pension and medical benefits. Costigan never was prosecuted for his alleged crimes and is not subject to Megan's Law because the statute of limitations ran out by the time his accuser came forward, Mullaney said.
Costigan was removed in 1994 as chaplain of Dover General Hospital shortly after a Philadelphia area woman went to church officials and accused him of abusing her decades before, Mullaney said. Though Costigan was not defrocked, then-Bishop Frank Rodimer prohibited him from wearing clerical clothing and passing himself off as a priest, Mullaney said.
Patricia Clancy, who has become an advocate for abuse victims, said the abuse started when she was eight and continued until she was 16, occurring when Costigan was a member of the Christian Brothers order and before his 1974 ordination as a Paterson Diocese priest.
She said on Tuesday that the Paterson Diocese hasn't done enough to monitor Costigan.
"The bottom line is they can't track him," she said. "They've done a poor job."
Clancy said she found a notation in a Catholic directory of priests that Costigan was in Huntsville, Ala. in 2006 and she mentioned that in an October 2006 letter to Paterson Diocese Bishop Arthur Serratelli.
Mullaney said on Tuesday that Costigan was in Huntsville for a time but wasn't sent there by the Paterson Diocese.
"If he showed up in Alabama, he did it on his own," Mullaney said.
Mullaney said Costigan violated the terms of his suspension two years ago by passing himself off as a priest at a Pennsylvania parish and that Serratelli sent him a letter warning him that he could lose benefits. The diocese also sent letters in August 2007 to various places where Costigan worked or lived over the years — including St. Clare's Hospital, Sacred Heart parish in Rockaway, and the Felician Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Convent in Mount Arlington.
It also sent a letter to the Birmingham, Ala. Catholic Diocese, Mullaney said.
Frank Savage, a spokesman for the Birmingham, Ala. Catholic Diocese, said Tuesday that his diocese received a 2007 alert about Costigan and that priests in the Huntington area were warned about him.
Abbott Koloff can be reached at (973) 428-6636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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