Resident Asks Freeholders: Why Wasn’t Priest Prosecuted in ’84?

By Al Campbell
Cape May County Herald
September 1, 2018

A Seaville resident called on freeholders Aug. 28 to petition the state Attorney General to discover why, in 1984, the County Prosecutor's Office reached an agreement with the Diocese of Camden not to prosecute a priest for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old.

Tom Henry cited the recent Pennsylvania grand jury's report that detailed sexual abuse of children by priests, and the actions of the Roman Catholic hierarchy "at the highest levels, to hide these abuses from the public."

Henry said the "evil acts committed did not stop at the Delaware River."

"The report details the actions of the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office, working with the Camden Diocese not to prosecute a priest who was arrested for taking a 14-year-old to his home in Cape May, giving him beer, and then sexually assaulting him," said Henry.

He continued that the Bishop's Accountability Project "cites a lawsuit that claimed the Camden Diocese had at least 15 pedophile priests or monsignors with four bishops and two monsignors covering up their actions by engaging in a practice known as "Bishops Helping Bishops."

Henry named Rev. John P. Connor as one of the priests, but wondered, "How many other cases were brought to the attention of the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office?"

A Philadelphia Inquirer Aug. 19, 2018 story interviewed Camden Bishop Dennis Sullivan on the subject of clergy sex abuse. He had ordered a letter to be read at all Sunday Masses in the diocese. In that letter he addressed the subject.

Also in that letter, Sullivan wrote that Connor had been removed from ministry 16 years ago, and was "restricted to a special facility in Missouri."

In response to Henry's request, Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said, "As a Catholic, this is so extremely embarrassing...It's terrible. I think county counsel can ask what our authority is to ask for that information."

He referred the inquiry to Counsel Jeffrey Lindsay.

Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, a retired detective from the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office, said, "I was in the Prosecutor's Office. I prosecuted several priests from Cape May County. They went to jail. I was in charge of the child abuse unit. I know there are documented cases. Some, I know, could not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. There were cases prosecuted in Cape May County."

"We will ask," Thornton concluded.








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