Tough Day at Mass

By Scott Waldman
Albany Times Union
October 25, 2009

Parishioners warned before hearing bishop's letter about suspended priest

WYNANTSKILL -- The faithful crowded into St. Jude the Apostle Church Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the news broke that their priest had been suspended after being accused of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Salvatore Rodino was placed on administrative leave after a sexual misconduct review board for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany found "reasonable grounds to believe he sexually abused a minor about 27 years ago." At the time of the alleged incident, which involved a teenager, Rodino was at Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany.

As a result of his suspension, Rodino, 58, cannot celebrate Mass, wear clerical garb in public or publicly perform any functions as a priest.

The diocese says Rodino denies any inappropriate contact.

Some of those at the church's 11 a.m. Mass Sunday defended their pastor and blamed the accuser. Wendy Billingsley, a parish member for about five years, said she simply didn't believe it shortly before she entered the packed service.

"I feel terrible for father. Everything involves money," she said, referring to the settlements the diocese has paid to other abuse victims. "Follow the money. Whoever is behind this, that's what they're looking for."

Rodino's suspension was announced during Mass at St. Jude, where he has been since 2005. Parents with young children were told they might want to leave before the Rev. Ronald Menty read a letter from Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard.

"Although substantial progress has been made, our work is not done," the letter read. "The church has a continuing moral obligation to foster healing and reconciliation among victims."

The suspension was announced and the letter read during Mass at other churches at which Rodino served, including St. Bonaventure in Speigletown; St. Pius X in Loudonville; and St. Margaret Mary's in Albany. He also was at La Salle Institute in North Greenbush; Bishop Maginn High School in Albany; St. Patrick's Academy in Catskill and Catholic Central High School in Troy.

Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb said the accusations were made this summer and turned over to the district attorney's office. After it was determined that no criminal charges would be brought forward, the diocese conducted its own investigation.

Mark Lyman, the Capital Region director of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, slammed the diocese, saying it does not conduct its investigations of priests in the open and allows priests to receive pay and benefits when they've been accused of a crime. He said he understands the reactions of parishioners who have just begun to contemplate the serious accusations against their spiritual leader.

"What many parishioners are going to have to deal with is they let this man into their lives," he said. "They were played, just like the victim was played."

The suspension echoed the removal of the Rev. Gary Mercure from the Sacred Heart parish just a few miles down Route 66 in January 2008. In November 2008, Mercure was charged with three counts of rape of a child with force as well as one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 in Massachusetts. That case has not yet gone to trial.

Scott Waldman can be reached at 454-5080 or by e-mail at


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