Letter to New Jersey Bishops
Dear Newark Archbishop John Myers, Metuchen Bishop Paul Bootkoski, and Trenton Bishop David O'Connell:
We have learned recently that three more credibly accused child molesting clerics have worked in your dioceses. Two (Fr. Eusebio Pantoja and Fr. Rubin Abaya) have never been “outed” here in New Jersey before today. One (Fr. Joseph B. DiPeri) was just “outed” here last week.
The three worked in Perth Amboy (Metuchen diocese), Rumson (Trenton diocese), and Jersey City, Newark, Garfield, Summit and Englewood (all in the Newark archdiocese.) They may have also been assigned to substitute work in other parishes or Catholic institutions.
We suspect you and/or your staff has known at least these facts for years. If so, shame on you for your years of reckless, self-serving silence.
Regardless, we believe that you and your staff now have a duty to aggressively reach out to others who may have seen, suspected or suffered or concealed their crimes.
This is especially important with Fr. Pantoja and Fr. Abaya. They’re alive, so they might still be prosecuted, convicted and kept away from kids. Furthermore, their whereabouts are unknown. They might be in New Jersey now. Or they might visit here - and molest here – every summer.
Also, other current or former church employees who may have ignored or hidden their crimes might also be prosecuted, thus deterring such irresponsible, illegal and hurtful actions in the future.
But it’s also important that you do outreach about Fr. DiPeri too.
Why? Because New Jersey men or women may have been sexually assaulted by him. Because, if so, those victims may still be suffering in shame, silence and self-blame. Because they need – and deserve – to know that they are not alone, the abuse was not their fault, and that recovery is possible.
And finally, because you all promised that you would be “open and transparent” about clergy sex crimes and cover ups (not just those involving still-living predators).
Each of you has vast resources. You control parish bulletins, church websites, diocesan newspapers and pulpit announcements. It would be easy and inexpensive for each of you to do aggressive outreach to find – and help - other victims of the clerics (and potentially help police and prosecutors build criminal cases against Fr. Pantoja and Fr. Abaya).
Though their crimes may have happened years ago, there are likely wounded victims whose pain is deep and still very fresh and crippling.
Here are more details about the three clerics:
1 - In 1971, Pantoja worked at Our Lady of Fatima parish in Perth Amboy.
According to BishopAccountability.org, Fr. Pantoja was ordained in Mexico. In 2003, he was sued for allegedly abusing a 14 year old in the 1970s in Chicago. (The victim was represented by Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson 651 227 9990, firstname.lastname@example.org). After leaving in Chicago, Pantoja worked in New Jersey and Texas and then spent nearly a decade working as priest in Mexico. He was put on leave in 2003. Pantoja belongs to a religious order called the Claretians.
2 - In 1984, Abaya worked in Perth Amboy, though it’s not clear where exactly he was assigned. (He was among seven priests who sexually abused a California girl.) Abaya is a diocesan priest and is originally from the Philippines. According to the 1980 Official Catholic Directory, Abaya also worked at Holy Cross parish in Rumson NJ.
3 - A Los Angeles newspaper last week reported that “the last known information indicates (DiPeri) was in a retirement home for priests in New Jersey.” He worked “at churches in Jersey City, Newark and Garfield and was a teacher at Oratory Preparatory School in Summit and a principal at St. Cecilia’s School in Englewood,” according to the Star Ledger (which disclosed DiPeri’s presence in New Jersey just last week).
Last week, long-secret records about child molesting California clerics were released in Los Angeles. Those documents revealed .Fr. DiPeri’s presence in New Jersey. DiPeri belonged to a religious order called the Marianists. (He died in 2007.)
We in SNAP do not know the current whereabouts of either Pantoja or Abaya (though it seems Abaya now works for the church in the Philippines). You, however, either know or can find out where they are. We believe in addition to your duty to alert and warn your flock about these credibly accused child molesters, you also have a moral obligation to warn parishioners and the public in whatever dioceses these predators are now in.
We hope you will take your responsibilities as pastors and shepherds seriously. We hope you will take action soon to help protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.