A Married Roman Catholic Priest, Who Was Placed on Paid Leav

By Peggy Wright
Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey)
September 27, 2005

A married Roman Catholic priest, who was placed on paid leave from St. Virgil's Church in Morris Township in November, was indicted Tuesday on charges of beating his wife in both May and November of 2004.

The Rev. William L. Winston, 51, was charged by a Morris County grand jury with the aggravated assault of his wife, Janet, on Nov. 1 and between May 1 and May 31, 2004, in Morris Township. Grand jurors charged Winston -- who was named St. Virgil's pastor in 1999 -- with causing his wife of more than two decades serious injuries in November and significant, but temporary, injuries last May.

The alleged beating in May was not reported at the time to police; it was disclosed, however, to the grand jury. Winston was charged by police in November when a friend of Janet Winston's contacted authorities on her behalf.

He originally was charged with simple assault, a disorderly persons offense that is handled in municipal court, but the grand jury elevated the Nov. 1 incident to a second-degree aggravated assault based on medical evidence.

"We were able to present additional medical information to the grand jury that came out during an investigation," Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Karin Kelly-Weisert said.

On Nov. 1 at the St. Virgil's rectory, Winston allegedly picked his wife up, threw her to the ground and kicked her in the back. Authorities said she suffered injury to her tailbone and her jaw, as well as kidney damage.

William Winston has been living since November in the rectory at Assumption Church on Maple Street in Morristown. The diocese, while still paying the father of five his salary, has ordered that he cannot represent himself as a priest or engage in any ministries on behalf of the church while the charges are pending, said diocese spokeswoman Marianna Thompson.

Winston did not return a call left on his voice-mail at Assumption Church.

Defense lawyer Michael Ascher said he has not received any evidence from the prosecutor's office that justifies a second-degree aggravated assault charge, which is punishable upon conviction by up to 10 years in prison.

"We're going to defend against these charges. The original charge of simple assault seemed appropriate. I haven't seen anything that would elevate this to a second-degree offense," Ascher said.

Duffy to take over

Thompson said that Monsignor Francis Duffy, who has been acting as administrator of St. Virgil's parish, is expected to succeed Winston there as pastor as of Oct. 15. For the past 11 months, Janet Winston and some of her children have been living in the rectory at St. Virgil's.

After he was charged in November, Winston admitted generally to a family court judge in Morristown that he committed an act of domestic violence against his wife and agreed to abide by the terms of a restraining order. His lawyer at the time said Winston had begun attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and psychotherapy sessions, and planned to start an anger management program.

Ascher on Tuesday would not disclose any treatment that Winston may still be receiving.

Several parishioners of St. Virgil's said they wished the best for the Winston family but did not want to comment on the charges.

"It's obviously a sad state of affairs," said one parishioner, Kathy Lindgren. "It's a terrible thing for any family to go through, and a sad situation for St. Virgil's."

Winston will be given a date to appear within the next few weeks in state Superior Court, Morristown, for arraignment. Though the Winstons now are separated, no divorce action had been filed as of Tuesday. Neither Janet Winston nor her private attorney could be reached Tuesday.

William Winston is a former Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism around 1984, after he had married and started a family. His transfer to the Roman Catholic Church was the result of a Vatican decision in 1981 to allow married Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests. He served at two other parishes in Morris County before going to St. Virgil's in 1999.


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