Paterson Diocese Issues Warning about Suspended Priest Seen at Morris Churches

The Star-Ledger
January 13, 2009

A priest on administrative leave over sex abuse accusations recently presented himself as a cleric in good standing, prompting Paterson Diocese officials to alert local clerics and law enforcement authorities, a diocese attorney said yesterday.

The alert regards the Rev. George Costigan, 82, who allegedly appeared in priestly garb last week at St. Matthews Parish in Randolph, said Kenneth Mullaney, a diocese attorney.

On Friday, the diocese sent an e-mail warning its priests about Costigan and advising them to demand he leave any church he appears in, Mullaney said. The e-mail said the priests should then call the diocese, and they should alert police if Costigan does not leave.

Costigan was accused in 1993 of having sexually abused a Pennsylvania woman decades earlier, from 1965 to 1972, from the time the alleged victim was 9 until she was 16. No criminal charges were ever pursued because the statute of limitations had expired.

At the time of the alleged abuse, Costigan was a member of the Christian Brothers, a lay order. He was ordained a priest in the Paterson Diocese in 1974.

Costigan, who had been chaplain at Dover General Hospital, retired shortly after the accusation was made. In 1994, Bishop Frank Rodimer revoked his priestly privileges and placed him on administrative leave. Costigan was forbidden from celebrating Mass publicly or presenting himself as a priest, Mullaney said.

The e-mail sent Friday from Monsignor James Mahoney, the diocese's vicar general, went to every priest, deacon, church staff member, agency head, and school principal in the Paterson Diocese, which includes about 377,000 Catholics in Morris, Sussex and Passaic counties, Mullaney said.

This week, Mahoney also is sending letters about Costigan to Randolph parishes, law enforcement and public school officials, Mullaney said.

Diocesan officials also are warning Costigan, who lives in the Randolph area, he could lose his church pension and medical benefits. It issued a similar warning two years ago when Costigan allegedly presented himself as a priest in good standing at a church in Pennsylvania, Mullaney said. The diocese also sent letters at the time to places where Costigan had worked in the past.

The existence of the e-mail was first reported Tuesday on the website of the Daily Record of Morristown.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national victims group with an active New Jersey presence, criticized the diocese's response, saying in a prepared statement it should have directly alerted parishioners, as well as priests and diocese personnel.

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

SNAP officials said the bishop of the Paterson Diocese, Arthur Serratelli, should appear in every parish where Costigan has worked and should post a picture of Costigan on the diocese's website.

Mullaney said the diocese would not be opposed to posting a picture of Costigan on its website.


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