Bishop Warns Priests, Not Parents, about Predator; Sex Abuse Victims Respond

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
January 13, 2009

[This statement is followed by an excerpt from at article on the Costigan case. The full article, with important additional information, is: Diocese warns Morris parishes to be on lookout for suspended priest: Priest's accuser says church officials haven't done enough to watch him , by Abbott Koloff, Daily Record (January 13, 2009).]

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)

It's the same old scenario: the public and parishioners learn of a dangerous predator priest only because of the media. The bishop alerts priests, who have no kids, about a child molester, but refuses to warn parents.

When will bishops learn, in the words of Martin Luther King, that 'no lie lives forever,' and that they just can't keep secrets about pedophiles like they once could?

The bishop should personally go to every parish where Fr. Costigan has appeared and apologize for not notifying families sooner. He should also explain why he still insists on secrecy in child sex cases and post Costigan's photo on the diocesan website so that more people will be aware of this criminal and will keep their children away from him.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 19 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688), Mary Grant (626-419-2930), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940)

Diocese warns Morris parishes to be on lookout for suspended priest


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.

Monsigņor 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 the 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, he 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


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