Motive for Mendham Memorial Vandalism Sought

By Phil Garber
New Jersey Hills
February 14, 2014

The question for Fred Marigliano, himself a victim of clergy sexual abuse, remains why?

Why did a 39-year-old former borough man take a sledgehammer to the memorial at St. Joseph church to remember people who have been sexually abused by priests?

Gordon Ellis, now of Morristown, has admitted to the vandalism but said in Superior Court in Morristown on Friday that he didn’t know why he did it.

Superior Court Judge Mary Gibbons Whipple sentenced Ellis to pay $7,500 in restitution for the Nov. 18, 2011 incident, two years probation and ordered Ellis to continue with psychiatric treatment.

Ellis had agreed to plead guilty to a disorderly persons charge after the original charge of criminal mischief was downgraded.

The memorial was rebuilt after the attack by Ellis but was vandalized again in March 2013. There have been no arrests in the second incident.

“The gentleman apologized and that was good,” said Marigliano of Green Brook, who attended the sentencing. “We still wanted to know why and he didn’t say.”

Marigliano said he wanted to know if Ellis had been sexually abused as a child.

“If he was, we want to help him,” Marigliano said. “People who were abused take it out in many ways.”

Abuse Victim

Marigliano, 66, wants answers because he helped pay to build the memorial and its replacement. The revised memorial also includes a security camera and increased lighting. Marigliano said he also is concerned because he was repeatedly raped at his home in Plainfield by a priest from Staten Island, N.Y., who died in 1995.

Marigliano is a member of “Road to Recovery,” a support group for people who have been sexual abused by clergy members. He also is active in the drive to change the state law to eliminate the statute of limitations so abusive clergy members can be prosecuted, regardless of the date of the crime.

“When you are a young kid you’re terrified someone will find out because you’re taught that a priest is close to God,” Marigliano said. “When you are older, you’re afraid because people will look down on you. I’ve been quiet for 40 years and I’m not going to be quiet any more. It is a fight we will never give up.”

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Anthony Scibetta said Ellis has a history of mental illness.

The memorial, originally erected in 2004, was rebuilt and rededicated but in March 2013 the replacement memorial that depicted two children was vandalized again.

Bill Crane was sexually assaulted as a child by former pastor James Hanley. Crane had the idea to erect the nation’s first memorial in 2004 to clergy sexual abuse victims and in particular to the memory of a friend, James Kelly, who had committed suicide in 2003, apparently tormented by his own experiences as a child victim of Hanley.

Hanley was pastor of St. Joseph’s from 1972 to 1982, where he sexually abused more than a dozen boys in the church rectory. He was later defrocked but not charged because of the statute of limitations.

The memorial is comprised of a foot-thick, 400 pound black basalt millstone flanked by two children. The millstone is in reference to Jesus who said in Matthew 18; 5-6 “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

The inscription beneath the millstone reads: “This millstone is dedicated to the victims of sexual abuse at St. Joseph’s and everywhere as a tribute to their survival, a mark of our deep respect and as a symbol of our commitment to their healing.

“Jesus said: Come to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you. Matthew 11:20.”








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