NEWARK – In an effort “to do what is right,” the five Roman Catholic dioceses in New Jersey are releasing on Wednesday the names of priests and deacons credibly accused of sexual abusing minors.
“The revelations of clergy sexual abuse of minors throughout this past year have provoked feelings of shock, anger, shame, and deep sorrow throughout our Catholic community. Victims, their families, and the faithful are rightfully outraged over the abuses perpetrated against minors,” a Feb. 13 letter from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark said. “Additionally, the failure of Church leadership to immediately remove suspected abusers from ministry is particularly reprehensible.”
All names on the list from the Newark archdiocese had been reported to law enforcement agencies, the archbishop added. The full list of names from that archdiocese can be found here. The records go back as far as 1940.
Monmouth and Ocean counties are overseen by the Diocese of Trenton.
That diocese released the names of 30 priests through its Twitter account after noon Wednesday. The list, here, includes names, birth dates, years of ordination, and status of the leader, whether he be removed or deceased. The list does not include what local churches the priest served in.
“The Archdiocese of Newark has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of mistreatment or misconduct involving children and young adults. No member of the clergy with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor remains in ministry,” Tobin wrote Feb. 13.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced back in September that his office was forming a task force to investigate claims of sexual abuse in all five Catholic dioceses—Newark, Trenton, Paterson, Metuchen, and Camden.
His office also established a hotline for alleged victims to report abuse and get help. The hotline, staffed by trained professionals 24/7, is 855-363-6548.
Additionally, Tobin asked anyone with sexual abuse claims to report it to law enforcement and to the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 201-407-3256.
Although he himself is accused of turning a blind eye to reports of sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, and shuffling known abusers to different churches, Pope Francis in December say that priests and other leaders who have abused children should turn themselves in to authorities.
“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” The Washington Post reported the Pope saying during a Roman Curia in December.
The release of the names comes the same week as a three-part Houston Chronicle series sheds light on 20 years of sex abuse scandals and cover-ups in the Southern Baptist Convention, a fellowship of nearly 48,000 churches—15 million members—across the U.S. and its territories. The newspaper reported on 220 church leaders convicted of crimes against 700 victims. Nearly half of those were youth pastors, who victimized minors.
While there is no ecclesiastical hierarchy of authority in the SBC as there is in the Roman Catholic Church, complaints mirror the accusations that church leaders were slow to act, and would often allow the accused to gain church employment in another congregation.
The Chronicle quoted one pastor commenting on churches hiring persons with criminal records.
“”You just got to be a big idiot to say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m going to hire this person even though they’ve got this accusation against them,’” the paper quoted William Rushing, pastor of Woodward Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama, saying.
“All rape and sexual exploitation is evil and unjust. Sexual abuse is not only sin but also a crime. All of it should be prosecuted in the civil arena, and all of it will be brought before the tribunal of the Judgment Seat of Christ. But nothing is worse than the use of the name of Jesus to prey on the vulnerable, or to use the name of Jesus to cover up such crimes. The issue of predators in the church is not a secondary issue, on which churches should brush up merely because of the cultural moment. This is a primary issue, one that Jesus himself warned us about from the very beginning,” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a Feb. 10 statement. “The church is a flock, he told us, vulnerable to prey. That’s why, he said, the church would need shepherds who would know both how to feed the flock with the Word of God and also to protect the flock from predators who would tear them apart. The Holy Spirit warned us expressly that some would infiltrate the church to carry out their sexually violent depravity.”
There were no SBC church leaders from New Jersey listed in the Chronicle’s list of abusers.
For its part, the dioceses in New Jersey have established an Independent Victim Compensation Program, which will “allow those sexually abused as minors by clergy to seek compensation in a compassionate, expeditious and transparent manner. While no degree of financial compensation can adequately address the suffering endured, we want this to be a genuine expression of our remorse and our desire to comfort and compensate those victimized by this abuse,” Tobin wrote.