Priest Accused of Abuse in New Jersey Moved to Alabama
By Greg Garrison
February 17, 2020
|Former priest Sean Rooney served in Birmingham for 20 years, 1983-2003.|
A Catholic priest who was accused of sexually abusing a minor more than 100 times in the 1970?s in New Jersey was later assigned by his religious order to Birmingham, where he lived and worked for 20 years and helped run a youth outreach to the Marks Village housing project.
The Diocese of Paterson, N.J., is facing a lawsuit accusing the priest, who taught at the now-defunct Don Bosco Technical High School, of molesting a student, according to a report by NJ.com.
Sean Rooney was assigned in 1983 by his religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, to Birmingham and remained in residence as an administrator through 2003. The Salesians for decades maintained a priest residence in Gate City next to Holy Rosary Catholic Church and ran a youth oratory, an outreach to young people in the nearby housing project. Salesian priests were assigned to oversee both Holy Rosary and St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Woodlawn.
In 2001-2002, now-deceased Bishop David Foley assigned Rooney to serve as pastor of both St. John Bosco and Holy Rosary churches. In 2014, the Salesian order withdrew from Birmingham and the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham took over administration of the parishes.
In 2003, Rooney returned to the Salesian Provincial House in New Rochelle, N.Y. In 2008, the former priest was laicized – meaning he had his status as a priest revoked - by the Salesians of Don Bosco.
There have been no reports of Rooney being accused of misconduct in Alabama.
In 2018, Bishop Robert Baker, current head of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, released a list of all priests credibly accused of sexual abuse during the history of the diocese. He said at the time the list came from case files of the diocese that involved priests accused of misconduct during their ministry in the Diocese of Birmingham.
The New Jersey lawsuit, filed Feb. 7 in Superior Court in Bergen County, accuses Rooney of abusing a student at various locations including the school from 1973-75, beginning when the victim was 13, according to a report by NJ.com. The victim, identified only by his initials in the suit, is now a Florida resident.
The website bishop-accountability.org, which tracks allegations against priests, says Rooney was also accused in a 2013 lawsuit of sexually abusing a 14-year-old seminary student at a retreat house in Massachusetts and at a seminary in New York.