Prosecutor Names Priest Suspected in Old Ulster Abuse Case

By Anthony Farmer
Poughkeepsie Journal (Poughkeepsie, NY)
May 2, 2002

The Ulster County District Attorney's office has identified — but cannot prosecute — a member of a religious order who allegedly abused a boy and the boy's sister while on a religious retreat in Ellenville two decades ago.

Ulster District Attorney Donald Williams said the Rev. Frank Nugent, a member of a Roman Catholic order, was identified by an attorney for the Salesians order. The lawyer contacted Williams' office with the allegations two weeks ago. The statute of limitations has expired on the case, Williams said Tuesday.

According to Williams, Nugent met the boy and girl while working at a high school in northern New Jersey, and that's where most of the alleged incidents of abuse occurred.

Nugent's "priestly faculties" have been removed and he is "not functioning" as a priest, said the Rev. James Heuser, vice provincial of the Salesians in the eastern United States. Nugent is in seclusion and under close supervision, Heuser said.

"We're trying to come to terms with the fact that some of our members have harmed the young," Heuser said Wednesday. "We're trying to take the steps that are appropriate to amend those situations as best we can and ensure they don't happen again."

The order reached a cash settlement with the alleged victims, but Heuser would not disclose the amount. The Archdiocese of New York has complied with the request of district attorneys in the region to turn over any files on priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

Thoroughness queried

But Williams has been concerned that the files turned over by the archdiocese did not include members of Catholic orders. Williams said he has identified several religious orders with connections to the county.

In some cases, allegations of abuse may have been made to a clergy member's religious order, rather than the archdiocese.

"We are writing to all the religious orders, making the same request of them," he said.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said the orders operate independently of the archdiocese, so the archdiocese wouldn't necessarily have such information. But the archdiocese is checking to see if it may have any pertinent information and will turn it over to authorities, Zwilling said.


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