Former Giants chaplain subject of the latest sex abuse lawsuit

By Abbott Koloff And Deena Yellin
Bergen Record
December 9, 2019

The Rev. Bill Dowd, the former Giants team chaplain, pictured at the Giants Timex Performance Center field house in 2012.
Photo by Thomas E. Franklin

The Rev. Bill Dowd, former Giants team chaplain, pictured outside the Giants Timex Performance Center field house in 2012.
Photo by Thomas E. Franklin

Carolyn Fortney and her sister, Teresa Fortney-Miller, hold a pictures of themselves as children at the Statehouse in Trenton in March. The Fortney sisters said they were abused by the Rev. Augustine Giella when they were children in Pennsylvania.
Photo by Kevin R. Wexler

[with video]

A former New York Giants football team chaplain accused of sexual abuse more than 15 years ago and later reinstated by church officials — just in time to get a Super Bowl ring  — was named in a lawsuit filed Monday by one of the two men who had come forward years ago.

The priest, the Rev. William Dowd, was returned to ministry in 2007 after a church tribunal made up of priests had acquitted him in a closed-door hearing. That decision came five years after a Newark Archdiocese review board, which included lay people, determined the allegations warranted further action by church officials.

Also on Monday, five women said in court papers that they were abused as young girls by a Bergen County priest while their families attended parishes in Hackensack and Glen Rock. 

The priest, Augustine Giella, died more than 15 years ago while awaiting trial after being charged with the sexual assault of a child. He's been accused of abusing five sisters from Pennsylvania after being transferred to that state from New Jersey. A Pennsylvania grand jury report listed him last year among 300 allegedly abusive clerics and called him an example of the Catholic Church's "wholesale institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children."

The cases filed Monday were among dozens of complaints made since last week after a new state law took effect on Dec. 1, loosening restrictions on bringing sexual abuse lawsuits and suspending the civil statute of limitations for two years.

Dowd had been the New York Giants' chaplain in the 1990s but left that post after he was placed on administrative leave when an accuser came forward to church officials in 2002. At the time, Dowd was pastor of St. Luke's parish in Ho-Ho-Kus.

He was accused in court papers filed Monday of abusing a boy at Immaculate Conception parish in Montclair over five years, starting when the boy was 12 years old in 1967. The man who filed the complaint was one of two people who came forward in 2002.

Both told an archdiocesan review board about being brought to the priest's room in the church rectory, according to a former member of that board.

"Both of them described his bedroom exactly the same," said Margaret Pipchick, of Cranford, who said she was a lay member on the review board when the case was heard. She said that she expected the priest to be defrocked when the matter was sent to Rome.

"Rome decided that was not going to happen," said Pipchick, who said she is a member of Voice of the Faithful, a lay group that supports priests and others who speak out about abuse in the church.

Dowd was acquitted by a panel of three priests from outside the Newark Archdiocese following a 2005 hearing, and church officials at the Vatican in Rome approved the decision in 2007. He was not returned to ministry in a parish, archdiocese officials said at the time, because of the "notoriety" of the case.

The priest went back to working as the Giants chaplain, leading Bible studies and counseling players during a season that ended with the team's Super Bowl victory in 2008. He continued in that job for years.

In 2012, he told that he had returned "just in time to get that Super Bowl ring."

Greg Gianforcaro and Jeff Anderson, attorneys for the accuser, said in a news release that Dowd has been stationed in northern New Jersey and that the Newark Archdiocese lists him as being on special assignment.

Suits accusing Giella

The attorneys also filed five other lawsuits on behalf of women alleging that they were abused by Giella when he was stationed at churches in Hackensack and Glen Rock decades ago.

He has been accused of sexually abusing five sisters in Pennsylvania after being transferred from New Jersey. One of them went to law enforcement, leading to the priest's 1992 arrest.

The Pennsylvania report noted that Giella had worked for 29 years in New Jersey until 1980 when he "suddenly decided to seek ministry elsewhere" and was moved to the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Attorneys for the five New Jersey women said in a news release that Giella — whose alleged abuse spanned three decades — was "among the worst of the clergy sexual abusers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania."

His Newark Archdiocese jobs included parishes in Hackensack, Glen Rock, Cliffside Park and Jersey City.

Giella is accused of sexually abusing three girls whose families were parishioners at Holy Trinity in Hackensack the early 1960s. Two of the women said in court papers that they were 6 years old when the abuse started. The other was 9 years old.

Attorneys said that the mother of one of their clients told a Hackensack priest about the alleged abuse in the early 1960s, but that Giella continued working and allegedly abused more children.

He is also accused of sexually abusing two girls whose families attended St. Catharine parish in Glen Rock over five years starting in 1976, when the girls were 6 and 7.



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