Priest Removed As Sex Charge Surfaces after 25 Years

December 15, 1998

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton has removed the pastor of a Manasquan church over an accusation of sexual impropriety that occurred 25 years ago.

The Rev. Robert Parenti was relieved of his duties at St. Denis R.C. Church just before Thanksgiving, Bishop John M. Smith said Sunday. The bishop said he acted after the diocese received a complaint that Parenti was involved in sexual misconduct with a minor a quarter-century ago.

No criminal charges were ever filed.

The complaint involves a time when Parenti lived at St. Veronica's parish in Howell Township and worked at the Diocesan Tribunal in Lawrence.

Parishioners at both churches were notified of the removal in a letter from the bishop that was read at all Masses Sunday.

"At this point it is a complaint that was brought by a person who alleges that this took place," diocesan spokeswoman Eileen Marx said. "This is an accusation, but Bishop Smith felt it was important enough to take immediate action.

"Ultimately, we need to be most concerned for the protection of children," she said.

Parenti is "undergoing a comprehensive evaluation," the bishop said in his letter to parishioners. "I want you all to know that we are taking all the steps necessary to follow through on this complaint so the rights of all parties will be handled respectfully.

"Allegations of such behavior shock all of us and undermine the work of so many priests who faithfully serve their people," Smith wrote. "Please know that I am most concerned for the person who brought this matter to our attention."

The diocese is withholding the name and gender of the accuser.

The Rev. Brian T. Butch has been assigned as interim pastor of St. Denis.


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