New Jersey memorial to abuse victims
Charlie Bird, Washington Correspondent, reports that the millstone memorial is dedicated to victims of sexual abuse

By Charlie Bird
RTÉ Radio 1, Morning Ireland
June 15, 2009 [click to listen]

[Note from We transcribed this report from the RTÉ Radio 1 streaming audio linked above. See also our transcript of Charlie Bird's RTÉ News video report, with stills providing multiple views of the monument, which is not well represented on the web. We have also provided links to a NY Times article, the Dallas Charter, and SNAP, which are referenced in the report. For background on the Mark Serrano story, see also Jason Berry, The Priest and the Boy, Rolling Stone, June 20, 2002.]

Aoife Kavanagh: One of the recommendations of the recent Ryan report on child abuse was that some consideration should be given to an appropriate memorial here. Well, in Mendham, New Jersey, in the U.S. they have their own tribute to the victims who suffered at the hands of Catholic priests. Our Washington correspondent, Charlie Bird, has been to Mendham to see the memorial.

Charlie Bird: Pat Serrano, we’re here at St. Joseph’s in Mendham in New Jersey. We’re looking at a millstone, and it says, the dedication says, this millstone is dedicated to victims of sexual abuse at St. Joseph’s and everywhere as a tribute to their survival, a mark of our deep respect, and as a symbol of our commitment to their healing. Jesus said, Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you. Tell me about the significance of this millstone.

Pat Serrano: This church, St. Joseph’s in Mendham, had many many boys who were abused by a pastor between 1972 and ’82. My son Mark was abused from age 9 to 16 by Father James Hanley, and Mark went through many many troubled years, as they do, but in 2002, his story was in the New York Times, which brought out many many of the other survivors. In October of 2003, Jim Kelly, one of three brothers who were abused by James Hanley, went under a train in Morristown. And at the funeral, Bill Crane, from Oregon, another survivor, wanted a tribute, and he thought of the millstone, and it was made in Oregon from a piece of basalt, brought here, and put here at St. Joseph’s, thanks to Father Ken Lasch, who was the pastor at the time. And it is a great symbol to survivors who can make it through the horrors of their childhood abuse, and they stole their souls when they were children. But this millstone brought this hunting grounds of Hanley to a healing place, and finally, a hallowed place.

Bird: There’s a debate going on in Ireland at the moment, and one proposal is that perhaps there might be a memorial. Do you think it’s a good idea?

Serrano: Oh, I do, I do. The suffering of the Irish people – I read of the 5,000 marching silently in Dublin, and my heart breaks. We found out about our son Mark in 1985 and let me tell you, it’s – I’m the Family Outreach Director for SNAP [Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests] here in New Jersey, and I get people calling all the time, we get new members all the time, and the suffering, the pain is horrible, what they go through.

Bird: Father Ken Lasch, you were the priest who was responsible for, as it were, brokering for the memorial to be put on the church grounds at St. Joseph’s. Tell me about the significance of the millstone monument.

Msgr. Kenneth Lasch: Well, it comes out of the text, I can’t remember the exact citation now, but it’s from Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus said, anyone who harms these children, should have, be tied to a millstone, around his neck, and thrown into the sea. And that was the text we used. Now, there was some discussion as to whether or not we should offset that with another text too, that spoke of a little hope for healing, not only of the victims but of the parish. And so we had the shepherd text that accompanied that.

Bird: What kind of a scar did this whole thing leave on the community in Mendham and also those who were the survivors, and the victims, because not all of them survived.

Lasch: No. The objective of support groups is to enable victims to become survivors, but the scars are always there. They never lose their memory of what happened. As far as the parish is concerned, I think there were scars, but I think the majority of people at that time were supportive of this tribute to victims, and were horrified that this should have taken place in their parish. Many of the people who remained members of the parish at that time, were also here when Father Hanley was abusing these kids.

Bird: Did the church face up to this properly, do you think?

Lasch: Oh, not at all, no, no. Anything, anything that I did as pastor, I had to do on my own, with little or no support from … and that, that has not changed. The Dallas charter notwithstanding, there has not been a change. The church considers itself a sovereign entity, a sovereign state, with its own laws, and so the only way that there will be effective and long-term change is to eliminate the statutes of limitations. That’s the only language, unfortunately … and I don’t want to be, on the other side, I don’t want to be at odds with the church, but their own legal system is incapable of dealing with this in a just way.


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