Woodland Park, New Jersey: New Jersey’s Roman Catholic dioceses on Wednesday released the names of 188 priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children over decades, the result of an internal review that was spurred by a law enforcement investigation announced last year.
The Newark Archdiocese posted a list of 63 names Wednesday morning that included 33 priests who are deceased. Some of the priests had one victim, according to the list, but 33 had multiple victims. Eight of the living priests, all of whom are alleged to have abused more than one person, have been defrocked.
The state’s other four dioceses, in Paterson, Metuchen, Trenton and Camden, posted their lists shortly after noon. The Paterson Diocese put up a list of 28 clerics, including one priest who was also listed by Newark. Camden had 57 names, Trenton had 30 and Metuchen had 11.
Most of the priests on the lists have died, though 79 are living. Bishops said in letters that none of the priests are working in their dioceses.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the highest-ranking American Catholic official to have been removed from ministry, was the most prominent name on the Newark list. Pope Francis accepted his resignation last year.
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McCarrick is a former leader of the Metuchen Diocese and the archdioceses in Newark and Washington, D.C. Church leaders in New Jersey acknowledged last year that he had been accused of sexual abuse by three adults in the state, and that two of the cases had resulted in confidential legal settlements.
The Newark Archdiocese said on its website that it included McCarrick on its list based on allegations that he sexually abused a teenager nearly 50 years ago, when he was a priest in New York. The archdiocese said the accusation had been deemed “credible and substantiated” by church officials in New York State.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, head of the Newark Archdiocese, said in an interview on Wednesday that church leaders “don’t see this publication as an end point,” and that it would continue to publish the names of any priests or deacons who are credibly accused “of sexual misconduct with a minor.”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese in Newark, New Jersey, announced last year that Catholic dioceses in the state would conduct an internal review of abuse cases.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese in Newark, New Jersey, announced last year that Catholic dioceses in the state would conduct an internal review of abuse cases. (Photo: Amy Newman/NorthJersey.com)
Tobin wrote a letter to Catholics across the region on Wednesday saying that the publishing of the names was part of “an effort to do what is right and just.” He said the list was compiled during an “extensive review” of records dating to 1940.
None of the priests are currently in ministry, and all had been reported to law enforcement, he wrote.
“It is our sincerest hope that this disclosure will help bring healing to those whose lives have been so deeply violated,” he wrote in the letter, which was posted on the archdiocese website. “We also pray that this can serve as an initial step in our efforts to help restore your trust in the leadership of the Catholic Church.”
Some seek more accountability
New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal noted in a statement that the lists were made public in response to the creation by his office last year of a statewide task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members in Catholic dioceses across the state.
“I am pleased to see that our task force’s grand jury investigation has prompted the dioceses to finally take some measures to hold predator priests accountable,” he wrote. “While this is a positive first step towards transparency and accountability, I hope this spirit of openness continues during the course of our ongoing investigation and in response to our requests for records and information.”
He wrote that the task force tip line has received hundreds of calls, indicating that the full scope of the problem has not yet been revealed.
A Pennsylvania grand jury last year identified 300 abusive clerics and 1,000 victims in that state. Four of the priests had worked for a time in New Jersey.
Advocates for people who have been abused by priests said the lists did not go far enough and that they have long called for the state’s dioceses to release files related to accused priests.
“What it doesn’t tell us is when they learned of the allegations,” said Mark Crawford, head of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP. “The victims need to know: Did I need to be victimized? That’s a glaring omission.”
Priests were directed to talk to their parishioners about the matter, and it’s expected to come up during Sunday services.
A new name
One of the names released on Wednesday was a surprise, because the Newark Archdiocese had not previously announced his status.
The Rev. Gerald Sudol was identified in the list as having abused multiple victims and as having been permanently removed from ministry. He had been cleared of a prior allegation, but he stepped down last year from his position as reverend in residence at Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church in Jersey City after a new accuser came forward.
Shortly after the archdiocese acknowledged that it was looking into the allegation, another accuser came forward.
That accuser, Ed Hanratty, said Sudol’s sexual misconduct was well-known among parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Ridgefield Park, where Sudol served from 1986 to 1994.
Hanratty, who was an altar server at the church, recalled Sudol giving him bear hugs and open-mouthed kisses, and trying to force his tongue into his mouth.
“Transparency is always a good thing, but I can’t help but question the sincerity,” Hanratty said on Wednesday after the lists were published. “I think people should ask themselves: If it were not for the Pennsylvania grand jury report, or the revelations from last summer, would the church have released this information?”
The lists, which were released individually by the state’s five dioceses, included priests who were taken out of ministry over the past 15 years or so after a scandal that led to changes in the way the church deals with child abuse. It was anticipated that some – but not all – of the priests would be widely known because their removal from ministry was made public in the aftermath of that scandal.
The Newark list included Michael Fugee, who was removed from ministry five years ago, only after the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office charged him with violating an agreement that he never again work with children.
Archbishop John Myers, Tobin’s predecessor as head of the Newark Archdiocese, had allowed Fugee to continue wearing the priestly collar and to live in a church rectory even after he to confessed to fondling a 13-year-old by at the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Wyckoff and was convicted in 2003 of aggravated criminal sexual contact.
Fugee recanted his confession, and the charges were dismissed on a technicality – they were overturned by an appellate panel of judges who determined that the trial judge made an error in instructing the jury.
Prosecutors did not retry Fugee but had him sign an agreement saying he would no longer work with children. Fugee later admitted to violating that agreement.
Authorities said he attended youth retreats in Monmouth County and Nutley, and heard confessions from children on at least seven occasions between April 2010 and December 2012, including twice at Sacred Heart Parish in Rochelle Park, where church officials allowed him to live in the rectory. He also heard confessions from minors at Our Lady of the Visitation in Paramus.
Fugee left Sacred Heart in early 2013 after NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY Network New Jersey inquired about his living there.
The charges were dropped after Fugee signed an agreement with prosecutors that he would never work with children again, would allow himself to be defrocked and would be monitored by law enforcement.
Another name on the list was Peter Cheplic, who was accused by three men of getting them drunk decades ago at a Ridgefield church when they were teenagers, and molesting them as they drifted off to sleep.
The Newark Archdiocese agreed to pay $100,000 to the men to settle their claims in 2006, when Cheplic was permanently removed from ministry. He had served 13 years, from 1972 to 1985, at St. Matthew Church.
One of the men, Joe Capozzi, said he felt relief when he saw Cheplic’s name.
“It’s a good day,” said Capozzi, 49, a Ridgefield native who is now a filmmaker in Connecticut. He said the list makes up for some people not believing him when he first came forward. “I was believed, and so were the other people who accused him,” he said. “Even though we don’t get our day in court, there is still a sense of vindication.”
A shift in how the church handles abuse cases
Bishop Arthur Serratelli wrote, in a letter posted on the Paterson Diocese website, that many of the names on the list had previously been revealed.
Some of the names are reminders that the church often failed to take strong action against accused priests before 2002, when it changed the way it deals with reports of child sex abuse. Bishops came to an agreement known as the Dallas Charter that year that required any priest who is credibly accused of sexually abusing a child to be removed from ministry.
James Hanley admitted to abusing at least a dozen children, many of them when he was pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in Mendham, in one of the most well-known cases of sex abuse by a priest in North Jersey.
He had been allowed to continue in his ministry even after one of the boys he abused, by then a college student, reported the abuse to Bishop Rodimer of the Paterson Diocese, who recently died. Hanley then confessed the abuse.
But he worked for a while in a hospital in Albany, New York, and was stationed for a time at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Wayne until the family of the accuser saw a photo of him in the diocese newspaper, celebrating Mass in Wayne and surrounded by children.
Hanley was removed from the parish after the boy’s family “raised the roof,” said Father Kenneth Lasch, who followed Hanley as the pastor of St. Joseph and has become a nationally known advocate for victims.
It was only after the Dallas Charter was signed that church officials moved to defrock Hanley. The diocese eventually settled a lawsuit that focused on Hanley but included other clerics, paying $5 million to more than two dozen victims.
Hanley was later defrocked, but the diocese continues to send him a stipend, and it has not said where he is presently living.
Lasch, who went public with the accusations against Hanley more than 20 years ago, said he would like the church to open up its records to allow the public to see how it handled abuse cases.
“What was done? Who knew about it? What was the follow-up?” he said.
‘A small step toward healing’
Another priest on the Paterson list was Ronald Tulley, who was criminally charged after he allegedly sexually abused two boys from Pope Pius High School in Passaic at his vacation home on Long Island in 1979. The charges were dismissed and the court records were sealed after Tully agreed to enter a program for first-time offenders.
But he was removed as pastor of the Sacred Heart parish in Dover in 2004 after the two boys, now men, read that he had been promoted and called church officials to complain. The diocese has paid $2.1 million to settle lawsuits related to Tully, the last one in 2015.
Tully was defrocked in 2016 and died late last year, according to church officials.
Mitchel Garabedian, a Boston attorney who represented many of Tully’s accusers, said the release of names was “only a small step in the direction toward healing” those who were abused.
“History has taught us that the Catholic Church can’t self-police,” he said, calling on the church to produce all of its documents related to cases of alleged abuse.
Missing from Wednesday’s lists, advocates said, were priests belonging to religious orders, which are considered separate from dioceses.
Nationally, a John Jay College study found that 4,392 priests were accused of child sex abuse in the United States between 1950 and 2002, about 4 percent of the priests who served during that time. The study also found that 10,667 children allegedly were abused during that time.