Alleged sexual abuse victims of 28 N.J. priests ask Catholic Church for cash settlements

By Kelly Heyboer
New Jersey Advance Media
August 7, 2019

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney representing the alleged victims, and Robert Hoatson, co-founder of Road to Recovery, speak Wednesday at a press conference in West Orange about the priest abuse compensation fund.
Photo by Patti Sapone

Thirty people who say they were sexually abused as children by 28 New Jersey priests are among those applying for financial settlements through a new compensation fund backed by the state’s five Catholic dioceses.

The list of 28 priests includes 12 who have never before been named as alleged abusers, said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney representing the alleged victims.

“It’s an honor to represent victims of clergy sexual abuse. They show an enormous amount of courage coming forward,” Garabedian said at a press conference in West Orange. “I tell each and every victim, if it helps you to heal enter into the settlement program.”

The fund — called the New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program — was unveiled earlier this year by the state’s Catholic dioceses as a way for victims of clergy abuse to settle their cases with the church privately, without going to court.

It began accepting its first applications June 15. Fund administrators said they received 44 claims in the first month and made three settlement offers. More offers were expected as the fund administrators continued reviewing cases.

New Jersey recently changed its law to allow more sexual abuse victims to file civil lawsuits against their alleged abusers and institutions, including the Catholic Church, starting on Dec. 1. The New Jersey compensation fund is expected to help head off some of those lawsuits by allowing alleged victims to ask for private settlements with the church.

Under the fund’s rules, victims file claims that are reviewed by independent fund administrators. If their claims are found credible, the administrators make the victim a settlement offer. If the victim agrees to take the cash, he or she signs documents promising to never sue the Catholic Church in the future.

The victims can chose to keep their settlement and their names private.

Garabedian said his 30 clients applying to the compensation fund include eight women and 22 men. They range in age from 45 to 87 years old and they were allegedly abused between 1946 and 1982. The youngest alleged victim was 5 when the abuse began.

The accused priests include many who appear on a list of 188 “credibly accused” priests and deacons released in February by the Archdiocese of Newark and the state’s four other dioceses -- Camden, Metuchen, Trenton and Paterson.

The priests accused of abuse by Garabedian’s clients include 12 who also appear on the church’s list of “credibly accused” priests in New Jersey:

-- Joseph Brennan, St. Maurice, Diocese of Camden (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1960)

-- John Connor, St. John’s Church, Diocese of Camden (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1973-1976)

-- Lawrence Gadek, St. Catherine’s Church, Archdiocese of Newark (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1960-1962)

-- Richard M. Galdon, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Archdiocese of Newark (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1969-1971 and 1980-1981)

-- William Giblin, Seton Hall Preparatory School, Archdiocese of Newark (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1976)

-- Robert G. Gibney, Sacred Heart Parish, Archdiocese of Newark (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1962-1963)

-- J. Gerard Griffin, Our Lady of Mercy, Diocese of Trenton (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1970-1971)

-- Joseph H. McGarvey, St. Mary Magdalen, Diocese of Camden (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1977-1978)

-- Joseph McHugh, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Diocese of Trenton (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1974-1975)

-- William McKeone, St. Denis Church, Diocese of Trenton (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1975 or 1976)

-- Gerard J. Sudol, Holy Family, Archdiocese of Newark (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1985)

-- Ronald J. Tully, Pope Pius XII High School, Diocese of Paterson (Approximate date of alleged sexual abuse: 1974-1975)

Four other priests accused by Garabedian’s clients applying for settlements had been publicly accused of abuse in the past on websites or at victims’ rallies, but did not appear on the New Jersey dioceses’ list of “credibly accused” clergy members.

The remaining 12 priests who had not been publicly accused before include: six from the Diocese of Trenton; three from the Archdiocese of Newark; one from Diocese of Metuchen; one from the Diocese of Camden; and one who served in both Metuchen and Trenton.

It remains to be seen if the compensation fund administrators will find the new claims against the 12 priests credible and offer the victims settlements.

Catholic Church officials said they are continuing to cooperate with law enforcement to report allegations of abuse. They also encouraged victims to come forward.

“The Archdiocese of Newark is committed to the ongoing support and healing of victims and the acknowledgement of those accused of the sexual abuse of minors. We continue to focus on transparency and accountability and to reinforcing established reporting and prevention policies and programs to protect minors and support victims in our parishes, schools and ministries,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

Robert Hoatson, co-founder of the sexual abuse victims charity Road to Recovery and a former priest, said he is among Garabedian’s clients applying for settlements from the New Jersey fund.

Hoatson said he was sexually abused by one of the accused Archdiocese of Newark priests from a West Orange parish in the 1960s, starting when he was 12.

He said he was unsure if he will accept a financial settlement from the church compensation fund, if one is offered, or file a lawsuit.

“Perhaps I will complete my journey with that. If not, I always have the option of filing a civil lawsuit,” Hoatson said.

Some victim advocates have encouraged priest abuse victims to consider using the new law to file civil lawsuits because the payouts could be larger and church officials could be held publicly accountable for covering up abuse.

A lawsuit could require the Catholic Church officials to turn over documents or publicly testify about alleged abuse and attempts to cover up crimes, Garabedian said.

New Jersey’s Independent Victim Compensation Program is overseen by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, who have administered similar compensation funds for priest abuse victims in New York and Pennsylvania.

They have not said how much money they will be handing out, but the priest abuse fund in New York offered a maximum payout of $500,000 to victims, reports said.

Alleged victims have until Oct. 31 to submit a new abuse allegation to the New Jersey fund and until Dec. 31 to file a claim.

Garabedian said one of his high-profile clients — James Grein, who accused former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of abusing him as a child — has chosen not to apply for a settlement through the compensation program.

“He wants to file a lawsuit. And he fully intends to file a lawsuit on Dec. 1,” Garabedian said.

In addition to the change in law allowing more civil lawsuits, New Jersey is also in the midst of a state investigation into clergy sexual abuse led by the attorney general. A task force set up in September plans to publish a report similar to one in Pennsylvania that exposed hundred of cases of priest sex abuse and how the church covered up some allegations.

A state hotline — (855) 363-6548 — has received hundreds of calls about abuse allegations in multiple religious institutions, not just the Catholic Church, state officials said.



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