Two Teens to Speak at Church on Sex Abuse

By Karen Kennedy-Hall
October 8, 2002

Two South Jersey teenagers want everyone to know they were abused by priests in the Camden Diocese, in hopes of helping other victims and ending the abuse.

The teens, Jonathan Norton of Atco and Kerry Sanborn of Lindenwold, both 17, will tell their personal stories of abuse in front of St. Peter's Church here today at 2 p.m.

They are the youngest membersof the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Southern New Jersey Chapter.

Norton, a senior at Hammonton High School, said he was abused when he was 10 years old by a priest at St. Peter's Church. The abuse continued for about a year, he said.

Mark Serrano, a board member of the national SNAP organization in northern Virginia, said people continue to believe that abuse by priests is only something of the past, from 20 or 30 years ago. The reality is that the culture of the Roman Catholic Church has enabled the crisis to occur, he said.

'So what we've learned from something like Jonathan (speaking out) is that it's a current crisis,' he said.

Norton's goal is to be able to speak about the abuse to help otherpeople. Norton filed a civil suit against the priest he accused of molesting him, Father James Hopkins, and the Camden Diocese. The suit was settled for about $600,000 in September 2000, and no criminal charges were filed against Hopkins.

Andrew J. Walton, a spokesman for the Camden Diocese, said Hopkinswas removed from the ministry and prohibited from returning.

The case is among dozens of allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Camden Diocese, which on Monday announced new policies for reporting and punishing molestation.

Sanborn said she was abused by a priest while working as a receptionist at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Berlin Borough in January 2001. Although Sanborn and her family are not claiming sexual abuse, they have recently filed a civil lawsuit saying the priest -- identified in court papers as the Rev. Laserian Nwoga -- made inappropriate advances and put his hand under her shirt, touching her skin. Nwoga could not be reached for comment.

'He might not have touched me in the places that were legally abuse but I still felt the same,' she said.

According to Walton, the allegation was not sexual abuse but unwelcome, inappropriate workplace conduct. The incident was reported to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

After a psychological evaluation of the priest, it was recommended the priest could be returned to ministry, Walton said.


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