|NJ diocese hires
sex-detective to protect children
New office will work to both investigate,
BY JEFF DIAMANT
New Jersey Star-Ledger
September 3, 2003
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen has hired the former
lead investigator for Middlesex County's sex crimes unit to
investigate claims of child sexual abuse by church officials.
As head of the diocese's newly created Office of Child and
Youth Protection, Lawrence Nagle of South Amboy will focus
on child protection issues, said Ron Rak, the diocese's general
The office was created in response to the nationwide clergy
sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church since
Nagle, a Roman Catholic, worked for the Middlesex County
Prosecutor's Office for 28 years until he retired last month.
The 50-year-old Nagle spent the past three years working in
the sex crimes unit, where he also investigated child abuse
and domestic violence cases.
"Protecting the members of our diocese from sexual crimes
has been, and continues to be, my highest priority,"
Bishop Paul Bootkoski said yesterday in announcing Nagle's
appointment. "The Office of Child and Youth Protection
will bring together under the leadership of one individual
many of our initiatives to address the problem.
"Lieutenant Nagle has worked with us over the past year
in his capacity as supervisor of sex crime units at the Middlesex
County Prosecutor's Office. I am very pleased that he has
agreed to join our diocesan family and work with us in combating
and preventing sexual abuse," Bootkoski said in a statement.
In his new position, Nagle will be a "first responder"
of sorts for the church, hearing and investigating allegations
against church personnel in the Metuchen Diocese, which serves
522,000 Catholics in Middlesex, Hunterdon, Warren and Somerset
counties. He also will help implement programs to prevent
abuse and assist church officials in disciplinary proceedings
against clergy accused of sexual abuse.
A graduate of Sayreville War Memorial High School, Nagle
began working in county law enforcement in 1975, mainly investigating
homicides. After moving to the sex crimes unit, he worked
with Bootkoski on issues stemming from the clergy sex scandal.
"I feel strongly connected to this issue," Nagle
said yesterday, his first day on the job. "I've met victims,
I've seen victims, and I've seen the pain in the victims'
eyes. I know how committed the bishop is to this initiative
and how strongly he feels about protecting children and youth
Having a former detective working within the diocese will
help convince clergy sex abuse victims that the diocese takes
their allegations seriously, Rak said.
"People may feel more comfortable going to someone who
spent years investigating these claims, someone who came from
the outside, who until recently was a member of law enforcement,"
Mark Serrano, a national spokesman for the Survivors Network
of those Abused by Priests, the main victims group, hailed
Nagle's hiring. He said he knew of no other diocese in the
United States that has hired a former law enforcement officer
full time to investigate sex abuse.
"The presence of former law enforcement officials, particularly
... a specially trained officer, is very, very important and
should replicated in dioceses across the country," Serrano
At the same time, Serrano said, Nagle's presence does not
mean the diocese can stop reporting allegations to prosecutors.
"Lieutenant Nagle should remember going into this job
that there is no substitute for law enforcement in clergy
abuse matters," he said. "Neither bishops nor other
church officials or former law enforcement officials take
the place of law enforcers."
Nagle's appointment is the diocese's latest response to the
clergy sex abuse scandal. Victims groups that have accused
most bishops of bad judgment or improper behavior have praised
Bootkoski, saying he has responded with compassion and openness.
Since the scandal broke, the Metuchen Diocese has deemed
accusations against five priests credible, Rak said. All five
voluntarily left ministry when faced with the allegations.
Among the five is the Rev. John M. Banko, who was sentenced
to 18 years in prison earlier this year after his conviction
for molesting an 11-year-old altar boy.
In May, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office announced
it would not bring charges against 29 accused priests, monks
and church employees accused over the years of sexually abusing
children. Officials cited several factors in their decision,
including expired statutes of limitations and the fact that
some alleged victims did not want to file charges.
Late last year, Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent, was
hired by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to head its
national Office of Youth and Child Protection.
Jeff Diamant covers religion. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-1547.
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