Alleged Sex Abuse Victim Responds
Claims Incidents 'Really Happened'

By Makeba Scott Hunter
Herald News
October 23, 2004

The alleged victim of sexual abuse by a Diocese of Paterson priest came forward Friday, after learning that his case had been re-opened by Bishop Andrew Serratelli, because, he said, "I want people to know that it really happened."

"Reading the story, (the priest) denies everything," said John Masker, the accuser, in a telephone call to the Herald News. "I want people to actually know that there's a person behind, 'the man in his twenties'" cited in the story.

On Wednesday, the Herald News reported that Serratelli had placed the Rev. Andrew Perretta on administrative leave pending a re-investigation of a 20-year-old allegation of fondling that former Bishop Frank J. Rodimer had deemed not credible.

Masker, 34, who now lives in Minnesota with his girlfriend and their 3-month-old son, said he wasn't aware of Serratelli's intent to re-open the case until his parents, who still live in New Jersey, read it in the paper and informed him.

After Masker's allegations were deemed not credible in 1996, Perretta continued to serve in Paterson and, until being placed on leave, was the Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart R.C. Church in Clifton. He could not be reached for comment, but previously has denied all charges.

The diocese declined to comment about Masker's remarks. Richard Sokerka, editor of the diocese newspaper, "The Beacon," said that because the matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation, it would not be fair to the parties involved to discuss it.

Masker said the alleged abuse began in 1979, when he was 9 and continued until he was 16. "Basically, it was, he touched me in ways that he shouldn't have. It happened in his office, in the confessional and it even happened at my home once."

Masker said he couldn't remember the number of times the alleged abuse took place, but that it was, "a lot of times. Basically, anytime I was alone with him."

The case came to the attention of the Passaic County prosecutor's office in 2002, when the diocese presented a list of local priests accused of sexually assaulting minors. The complaint against Perretta said the incidents involved backrubs and heavy breathing, according to Chief Assistant Prosecutor Joe Del Russo.

At the time, the statute of limitations had expired and no criminal action could be taken, Del Russo said. In 2003, Masker approached the prosecutor's office himself, filing a statement that said the incidents involved touching of the genitals and buttocks, Del Russo said.

Masker said he first told Monsignor Herbert Tillyer, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Paterson, about the abuse in 1996. He said that he waited 10 years to speak up because Father Perretta was a close family friend. "My grandmother used to actually call him the next Pope," he said, "and I was afraid they wouldn't believe me."

At the time, Tillyer offered to "pay for whatever therapy I needed, wherever I wanted it," Masker said. In 2001, he said, he had six months of counseling at Barnert Hospital in Paterson, for which the diocese paid.

"I was very anti-social. I didn't trust anybody, especially men. I didn't trust God, I did a lot of drugs, I did a lot of drinking, I quit high school, I was in an abusive marriage and I believe it all stems from then," Masker said. "It was constantly on my mind."

Masker left the area to try to get his life back on track, he said. A self-described, born-again Christian, he said he no longer practices Catholicism.


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