New Jersey priest faces charges of child sex abuse in Western Mass.
By Anne-Gerard Flynn
December 11, 2019
|The Rev. Patrick J. Kuffner, who has served in the New Jersey Diocese of Metuchen where he was ordained in 2002, faces charges of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 that allegedly occurred in Western Massachusetts in the early 1980s.|
A New Jersey-born priest — ordained in 2002 and removed from ministry a year ago — is facing three separate counts of indecent assault and battery of a child under 14 that allegedly occurred in Hampden County more than 35 years ago.
The Rev. Patrick J. Kuffner was arrested in his home state on charges of child sexual abuse Nov. 20 on a fugitive warrant from the Office of Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni, and is being held without bail in Toms River, N.J., DA spokesman James Leydon confirmed Wednesday.
“While the alleged crimes date back to the early 1980s, more than 35 years ago, and involve an incident from before Fr. Kuffner was a priest or even a seminarian, the charges are nevertheless shocking and are being taken seriously by the Diocese of Metuchen,” said Anthony P. Kearns III, spokesperson and chancellor of the Diocese of Metuchen in a statement. “Once we learned of the allegations, we immediately reported them to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which then conducted an initial investigation and subsequently referred the matter to the Hampden County Prosecutor’s Office in MA."
The Diocese of Metuchen, where Kuffner was ordained and raised, had removed the 72-year-old from ministry in February 2018 after three people accused him of sexual abusing them as minors more than three decades ago when Kuffner was a layman teaching in the Catholic school system on Staten Island, N.Y.
Kuffner is said to have attended St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y., early in life before deciding on a career in education, teaching in Catholic schools on Staten Island until the late 1990s.
In 1998, he is said to have resigned after five years as principal of St. Peter’s Elementary School on Staten Island to enroll as an older candidate to the priesthood in what is now Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston.
He was ordained to the priesthood on May 24, 2002 for the Diocese of Metuchen which has said a “further” review of its diocesan records that had been audited in 2002 for sexual allegations against priests indicates that “there was nothing in Fr. Kuffner’s background check – a screening that is required of all seminarians and priests – or in Fr. Kuffner’s behavior to suggest he could be capable of the alleged acts.”
At the time of his arrest on the fugitive warrant, Kuffner had been removed from ministry and given a leave of absence a year earlier as pastor at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Parish in Middlesex, N.J., where he had served since 2005.
According to the Staten Island Advance, some of the allegations in 2018 that resulted in his removal from ministry by the diocese stemmed from his time as a lay teacher and basketball coach at Sacred Heart Elementary School in New Brighton on Staten Island, which was Kuffner’s first teaching assignment and where he taught for seven years before teaching at several other Catholic schools.
Prior to being pastor at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Parish, Kuffner had served at one other parish.
When asked if Kuffner had any connection to the Diocese of Springfield, diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont said, “We have no record of this priest serving in the Diocese of Springfield nor of us having received any allegation involving him.”