Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson NJ Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli Plays Hardball with Victim of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Three Years after Disclosure of Clergy Sex Abuse As a Child, Clergy Sex Abuse Survivor Sees No Attempts at Mediation to Resolve Legal Issues with Roman Catholic Diocese
April 22, 2005
More than three years has elapsed since a survivor of clergy sex abuse disclosed being victimized to former Bishop Frank J. Rodimer and the Diocese of Paterson. However, the survivor feels he is no closer to resolution, healing, and restorative justice.
Steven M. Rabi, age 57, a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was abused as a child by former priest Joseph W. Molloy over a period of time starting when Rabi was an altar boy and student at St. Nicholas R. C. School in Passaic, New Jersey. Molloy subsequently left the priesthood, married, and raised a number of adopted children. Molloy was a child abuse investigator for the State of Florida and died in 2000.
Rabi was also abused by a second priest at the same parish. That priest, Francis X. Dennehy, remained a priest with the Diocese of Paterson and died in the 1980s.
Rabi is represented by in a lawsuit filed against the Diocese in New Jersey Superior Court by Phillipsburg NJ attorney Gregory G. Gianforcaro. Gianforcaro represented twenty-six plaintiffs in a clergy sex abuse action against several Paterson diocesan priests. The lawsuit settled earlier this year for more than $5 Million dollars.
After the announcement that the Vatican was granting Bishop Rodimer retirement, an auxillary bishop with the Archdiocese of Newark, Arthur J. Serratelli, was appointed to lead the Paterson Diocese. Rabi wrote to Bishop Serratelli and received a handwritten response from Serratelli saying he would seek to resolve the clergy abuse crisis in the Paterson diocese.
The lawsuit filed on Rabi's behalf "S.R. vs. Diocese of Paterson, Docket Number PAS-L-2862-04" names the Diocese of Paterson; Father Joseph W. Molloy, Deceased; The Estate of Father Joseph W. Molloy, individually; Father Francis X. Dennehy, Deceased; the Estate of Father Francis X. Dennehy, Deceased; The Estate of Bishop James A. McNulty, Deceased; the Estate of Bishop James A. McNulty, Individually; St. Nicholas Roman Catholic School; ABC Entity; and Richard Roe(s).
Since the filing of the civil claim in mid 2004, there has been no attempt by Bishop Serratelli to request the action go to mediation, thus avoiding costly legal expenses, and also serving to show empathy and charity to a clergy abuse survivor. Rabi believes that this may be due, wholly or in part, to the fact that Rabi maintains a website entitled "clergy abuse - diocese of paterson" that offers a survivors view on how clergy abuse is being handled by the Catholic Church and specifically by the Paterson Diocese.
Bishop Serratelli's legal counsel is pressuring Rabi to release the name of an individual who also was abused by Francis X. Dennehy. That individual, a childhood friend of Rabi's, never disclosed his abuse to anyone and does not want to come forward with it. The Church attorneys, however, will urge dismissal of the complaint if the individual is not named.
"When it comes to anonymously naming a drug dealer, the person who does that is not pressured into divulging his identity. What right does the diocese have to coerce anyone to violate another persons trust and discretion? That's what the Church does best: violate people through a position of trust."
"Perhaps Bishop Serratelli is allowing such intrusive violations to occur," Rabi said. "While I welcome the scrutiny and have nothing to hide, the bombardment by diocesan attorneys is vicious at times and this disturbs me."
Rabi received communication from the Diocese that they believed his claims of clergy abuse and that the Diocese has offered to pay for therapy and counseling "if the need is there."
Rabi presently is the New Mexico state chapter director for SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. His work with SNAP has him presently looking into several allegations by clergy abuse victims that have taken place in New Mexico. He has helped to remove one priest from active ministry in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM, and also put pressure on the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to investigate a pious association of Franciscan brothers. That investigation helped disband the group from the Roman Catholic Church.
In July, 2004, Rabi applied for and was granted formal excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church. In the letter written to Rabi by Santa Fe Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Sheehan stated "...and have accused two priests there (Diocese of Paterson) of sexual abuse against you years ago...so you can have closure from the Catholic Church and things that happened to you while in New Jersey." "In light of your request, I officially declare you to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church, in accordance with Canon 1364." Ironically, Rabi remembers speaking to Archbishop Sheehan about the excommunication and was asked pointedly "Do you desire to use the excommunication as a public relations tool to further dissent in the Church?" "That seemed more important to the Archbishop than the loss of a soul to the Roman Church," Rabi quipped.
Rabi and his wife are members of Faith Lutheran Church in Albuquerque. Rabi is involved in several ministries at FLC and says that the parish has embraced his witness to Jesus Christ. Rabi has disclosed his abuse and his support group activities to the parish council and has spoken about clergy sex abuse to members of the Church.
Meanwhile, Rabi realizes that Bishop Serratelli has the sole authority to cause his claims to be mediated and settled. "He inherited lots of loose ends when he was installed as Bishop. He needs to clear his desk of these claims and work diligently at preventing clergy sex abuse. If that means opening up clergy personnel files and taking a hardball approach toward his priests, then he'll be more respected by the laity, his brother priests who maintain holy, celibate lives, and survivors who, up to now, have seen little in change since the Bishop took over the diocese nearly a year ago. But I don't see that being realistic since the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI thinks it is the fault of the media and social mores of Americans that has caused clergy sex abuse to be exaggerated."
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