Rodimer, Abuser Priest Meet
Bishop Following Just-Approved Rules

By John Chadwick
The Record
June 19, 2002

With new rules in effect for priests who sexually abuse minors, Paterson Bishop Frank J. Rodimer met behind closed doors Tuesday with a priest who admitted improperly touching two young brothers in the Eighties.

Rodimer's meeting with the Rev. William N. Cramer is among the first steps the diocese has taken in the wake of last week's landmark approval by Catholic bishops for a new policy requiring the removal of abuser priests.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said the bishop had no comment on Cramer, but could issue a statement today.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, where Cramer works as head chaplain, also declined comment other than to say Cramer's employment status is unchanged.

Cramer, a former parish priest in Sparta, pleaded guilty in 1988 to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was later found liable in a civil trial, and fined about $75,000 in damages and interest.

The incident finished Cramer's career as a parish priest. But in 1991, he began working at St. Joseph's - with the blessing of Rodimer and hospital officials who knew of his past.

The bishop and hospital president Patrick Wardell have expressed their confidence in Cramer, saying he is an excellent chaplain, and has stayed out of trouble.

Still, under the church's new policy, Rodimer seems obligated to take action. For so much as one act of abuse, the policy gives the bishops a choice between defrocking the priest and removing him from ministerial work.

The first option means the priest is removed from the clergy. Under the second option, the priest retains the title "father" but cannot publicly celebrate Mass or wear a Roman collar. He would also have to "lead a life of prayer and penance" in seclusion.

The Vatican must still approve the legal framework of the new policy, but dioceses across the country are expected to put it into practice immediately.


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