Priest accused of groping teen in Boonton released from jail, can't function as cleric

By Peggy Wright
Daily Record
August 9, 2017

Rev. Marcin Nurek, l, a recently-ordained priest with his attorney William Ware during a detention hearing in Morris County Superior Court. Nurek was charged Thursday with endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual contact after grabbing a teenager's buttocks in Boonton. August 9, 2017.
Photo by Bob Karp

Meg Rodriguez, Assistant Prosecutor at Morris County Prosecutor's Office during the hearing of Rev. Marcin Nurek, a recently-ordained priest charged with endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual contact after grabbing a teenager's buttocks in Boonton. August 9, 2017.

Robert M. Hoatson, Co-Founder and President of 'Road to Recovery' leads a protest outside the Morris County Courthouse before a hearing for Rev. Marcin Nurek, a recently-ordained priest charged with endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual contact after grabbing a teenager's buttocks in Boonton. August 9, 2017.

[with video]

MORRISTOWNA newly ordained priest from Poland who is accused of groping a 13-year-old girl's buttocks under her skirt in Boonton will be released from the Morris County Jail to live at the Bethlehem Hermitage for priests in Chester Township as soon as he surrenders his passport, a Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.

   Over the objection of Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Meg Rodriguez, Judge Paul Armstrong ruled that the Rev. Marcin A. Nurek, 37, shall be released under special conditions while charges of criminal sexual contact and child endangerment are pending.

The conditions include reporting twice monthly to the Superior Court Pretrial Services unit, having no contact with children, and not serving as a priest - a condition that Diocese of Paterson Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli already mandated following Nurek's arrest on Aug. 3. Nurek also must remain in New Jersey and cannot be transferred elsewhere by the Diocese of Paterson while the charges are pending, Armstrong ruled.He allegedly followed a group of girls down a street in the town of Boonton and then reached a hand under a 13-year-old's skirt, and groped her buttocks over her underwear, stating either "You're sexy," or "Hey, sexy," according to authorities. Nurek was located shortly after the incident and, authorities said, made admissions to police. He was held Aug. 3 in the Morris County Jail and Rodriguez, the assistant prosecutor, filed a motion to detain him in the jail pretrial.

Nurek, appearing grim-faced, appeared Wednesday in a jail-issued jumpsuit before Armstrong with defense lawyer William Ware and assisted by a Polish language interpreter. A citizen of Poland, he is in the United States on a religious work visa and was ordained a priest on July 1.

   Ware told the judge that the diocese, while ordering that Nurek cannot function as a priest, is still supportive. The diocese has made arrangements for Nurek to live at the Bethlehem Hermitage for priests in Chester Township , and he will be monitored by a monsignor and a deacon. 

   The judge asked if Nurek intended to get any counseling while the charges are pending. Ware said he has been in touch with people from the Diocese about arranging for treatment of Nurek's "spiritual and psychological" needs.

   "The diocese hasn't abandoned Rev. Nurek. They're going to be providing a place for him to live," Ware said, adding that the Bethlehem Hermitage "is going to be a very good environment for Rev. Nurek to succeed."

   Rodriguez pressed for pretrial detention, saying that Nurek is only in the United States on a religious work visa and can't work as a priest. The diocese has canceled its assignment of Nurek to serve as parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Mountain Lakes as of Aug. 15, according to diocese spokesman Richard Sokerka.

   "We do believe there's a risk to the community," Rodriguez said. 

   Sokerka has not immediately responded to a question on whether Nurek received religious training in Poland prior to coming to America. Sokerka has said Nurek passed international background checks and went through all training on "Protecting God's Children" protocols.

   Before the detention hearing, former priest Robert Hoatson and several others held up posters on the sidewalk in front of the Morris County courthouse to bring attention to what they believe is a continuing disregard by the Catholic Church to care for the safeguarding of children from abusive priests.

   Hoatson, a founder of the group Road to Recovery Inc. for victims of clergy sex abuse, questioned Nurek's credentials and whether he was fast-tracked to becoming a priest.

   Hoatson said that it normally takes four years to become a priest; Nurek arrived in the United States in 2015. Hoatson said that as a priest, he was director of schools for Our Lady of Counsel in Newark but was fired when he testified in 2003 before the New York Legislature about clergy sex abuse. Hoatson said he ultimately petitioned the church to be laicized - made a layman - in 2011.

   "We're here to congratulate this teenage girl in Boonton who courageously stepped forward to report this heinous crime," Hoatson said. "We're here to once again say to the church 'You're unable to protect kids because your policies and procedures are not working."'

Hoatson had a message for the Catholic Church:  "Your international background checks, your national background checks, your workshops that supposedly educate people - we don't know what's in the background of these people because most of these abuses are not criminal abuses yet. They fly under the radar. So we're here to say you cannot protect kids. You've got to support our efforts to change the laws."

After the hearing, Ware, the defense lawyer, told reporters that Nurek does speak some English but needed an interpreter to understand the legal terminology used in criminal matters.

  According to The Beacon, the weekly newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, Nurek was ordained in 2016 as a transitional deacon, the final step before the call to the Sacrament of Holy Orders - the priesthood - in 2017. On July 1, Diocese of Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli ordained Nurek to the priesthood along with others.

   The diocese issued a statement, saying it is saddened by the incident and is cooperating fully with the Prosecutor's Office. It also said that Nurek had completed all training related to proper conduct with children.

   "The Diocese of Paterson was informed of the arrest of Rev. Marcin Nurek at approximately 8:45 p.m. on Thursday, August 3, 2017, at which time the Morris County Prosecutor's Office was immediately notified. Since then, the diocese has cooperated fully with the Prosecutor's Office in its investigation," the statement said.

   "In addition, Rev. Nurek was immediately placed on administrative leave, his faculties were revoked and his assignment as parochial vicar at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Mountain Lakes, was concluded," the statement said. (Revocation of faculties means that Nurek cannot function as a priest).

   "Rev. Nurek arrived in the United States from Poland in March of 2015. He was just recently ordained to the priesthood on July 1, 2017. He was scheduled to begin his assignment at St. Catherine of Siena in August 2017. His international criminal history background check was completed on Oct. 17, 2014 and was clear. He completed the Diocese's Protecting God's Children educational program on April 9, 2015 and he signed the Diocesan Code of Pastoral Conduct on March 9, 2015," the statement said.

   "The Diocese is deeply saddened by the charges filed against Rev. Nurek and offers its prayers to everyone involved, especially the minor who has come forward. Because this matter is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, all further inquiries should be directed to the Morris County Prosecutor's Office," the statement said.



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