Lawsuit Accuses Freehold Priest of Sex Abuse

By Kathleen Hopkins
Ashbury Park Press
June 5, 2009

St. Veronica's Roman Catholic Church in Howell is shown in a 2006 file photo. Rev. Richard Milewski has been accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a boy while assigned here 25 years ago.

TOMS RIVER A Roman Catholic priest, most recently the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Freehold, has been accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s, when the clergyman was assigned to St. Veronica's Church in Howell.

The lawsuit, filed late last month in Superior Court in Ocean County by lawyer Robert R. Fuggi Jr., alleges that the Rev. Richard Milewski abused his client, an unnamed, 37-year-old Virginia man, between 1984 and 1985.

Fuggi said his client was 13 years old and a student and altar boy at St. Veronica's, which has an elementary school, at the time.

Calls to Milewski at St. Rose were referred to the Diocese of Trenton. Spokeswoman Rayanne Bennett said in a prepared statement that the diocese never before had any complaints against Milewski until learning of the lawsuit on Wednesday.

"The Diocese has not yet had time to investigate this complaint to determine whether or not it is credible," the statement said. "Father Milewski has agreed to step aside from his duties as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish while the Diocese conducts its investigation and makes its determination."

The lawsuit alleges that Milewski, on numerous occasions between 1984 and 1985, sexually assaulted the plaintiff and other unnamed victims, all either parishioners at St. Veronica's Church or students at its grammar school, or both.

The abuse included an occasion during which Milewski took the plaintiff and a number of other boys on an overnight trip to a spa in the Poconos, according to the suit.

"The trip was chaperoned solely by Father Milewski," the lawsuit said. "During this incident, Father Milewski had all the boys on the trip disrobe completely to play naked in the whirlpool tub."

In that incident, Milewski molested the boys under the guise of roughhousing, the lawsuit alleged.

It alleged that Milewski and two of the boys molested the plaintiff after Milewski forced the boy to strip naked. Then, Milewski and the two other boys threw the plaintiff outside in the cold, where he cried until he was allowed to come back inside and get dressed, the lawsuit alleged.

At some later point, Milewski summoned the boy to the rectory to interrogate him about whether he had told anyone about what happened in the Poconos, the lawsuit maintained. Milewski replied, "That was good," when the boy told him he hadn't, according to the suit.

Also named as defendants in the suit are the Trenton Diocese, St. Veronica's church and school, St. Rose of Lima church and school, unnamed priests and bishops and the Rev. Brendan Williams, who was pastor of St. Veronica's and Milewski's supervisor during the period the suit contends the abuse occurred.

Williams and other church officials "knew or should have known that defendant Father Richard Milewski was exhibiting personal problems and/or engaging in sexual misconduct and/or engaging in grooming behavior towards children," the suit said.

"Why was this man allowed to take little boys alone on overnight trips?" Fuggi said in a telephone interview. "Where was the supervision? Where was (Williams), in a supervisory capacity, to make sure these type of things with young people didn't occur?"

Bennett said the diocese has a protocol, when abuse is reported, to notify law enforcement officials and look into the complaint on its own. That process is under way in this case, she said.

"The Diocese takes any complaint of abuse seriously," she said in the prepared statement. 'We have a review board that consists of eight lay persons and two priests, all of whom have judicial, law enforcement or counseling backgrounds. The review board investigates every complaint tat is made, and in turn makes recommendations to Bishop John M. Smith on the handling of each complaint.

"We are now taking the steps necessary to follow through on the complaint against Father Miewski so that the rights of all parties will be handled respectfully."

The bishop has appointed the Rev. Rocco Cuomo as temporary administrator of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Bennett said.

"Our faith in the Gospel teaches us to pray for all those affected by this news," she said in the statement.


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