Pastor Is Charged with Assaulting Wife

By Bill Swayze and Paula Saha
Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
November 13, 2004

The popular pastor of a Morris County Roman Catholic congregation was placed on leave after police charged him with assaulting his wife, according to authorities and a police complaint.

William Winston, the 50-year-old pastor of St. Virgil's Roman Catholic Parish, is charged with picking his wife up off the floor, throwing her back down and kicking her on Nov. 2, according to a copy of the complaint filed in Morris Township municipal court.

The assault took place at the church rectory, where the couple and their five children live, according to authorities familiar with the case.

Winston, a rarity in the Roman Catholic Church because he is married, was released after his arrest. He was ordered to vacate the residence. A temporary restraining order was filed against him, according to the complaint. He is expected to appear next week in domestic violence court in Morristown.

Winston could not be reached for comment. His attorney Paul Bangiola said, "This is a sad time for the entire Winston family," and asked "the many friends and people in the Saint Virgil's community to keep them in their prayers."

His remarks mirror St. Virgil's Nov. 14 church bulletin prayer section, which states, "I hope you are praying for" the couple. "They are suffering and the children must be under great strain. When we pray we do so with confidence that we are doing the best thing we can for the Winston family."

Marrianna Thompson, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Paterson, said Winston "was placed on leave until the matter is resolved." Monsignor James Fallon has taken on his duties. "We will continue to be of support to the Winston family."

She deferred all other comments to Morris County Prosecutor Michael Rubbinaccio, who declined comment, as did Morris Township police.

While many other denominations let priests marry, the Catholic Church does not. Married priests of other denominations who then become ordained as Catholic clergy are allowed to remain married. There are about 120 married Catholic priests in the country, said Alan Szafraniec, a researcher for the National Federation of Priests' Councils.

Winston came to St. Virgil's in June 1999 after serving six years at Assumption Church in Morristown, according to the church Web site. Winston was an Anglican priest who transferred to the Roman Catholic Church after a 1981 decision by the Vatican to allow Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests without further formal seminary education. Upon the Winstons' arrival, the parish rectory was remodeled to accommodate the family, the Web site states.

Irene Selitto, a parishioner at St. Virgil's for the last 45 years, said she was saddened by the charges. "From day one, he seemed like a very warm person, and wanting to do the best he could from the day . . . he came to us," said Selitto, 79, of Morris Plains.

Selitto said that when her husband died in January, it was Father Winston whom she asked for. "He's the one I saw, and I cried in his arms and he cried in my arms," she said. "I just found him to be a very fine young person, very compassionate and very understanding."


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