Staten Island pastor removed
2 groups picket outside St. Charles Church against
monsignor accused of molesting boy
Monday, March 15, 2004
By MELISSA ANELLI
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
In plain view of those entering and leaving each Sunday mass,
50 protesters from two sexual abuse victims support groups
demanded yesterday outside St. Charles R.C. Church in Oakwood
that Monsignor Thomas Gaffney be removed as pastor immediately.
Monsignor Gaffney, who is accused of abusing an altar boy
17 years ago, was not present. Deacon Stephen Tobon said the
79-year-old priest was hospitalized with liver problems and
Among the protesters were the parents, aunt and brother of
Daniel O'Dougherty, a 29-year-old man from New Jersey who
has accused Monsignor Gaffney of abusing him over a three-year
period when he was an altar boy for the parish and a student
at the parish school.
"[Daniel]'s not here. He's too emotional," said
Cathy O'Dougherty, Daniel's mother. "Even I can't even
look at the church right now."
Members of the groups Voice of the Faithful and the Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests picketed across the street
from St. Charles.
They wore lanyards displaying pictures of victims and waved
placards bearing papal statements against sexual abuse within
One statement, taken from Pope John Paul II's April 2002
address to the American cardinals, read: "...there is
no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who
would harm the young."
"This just blows me away," said Frances Ouriti,
a parishioner from the area, as she left mass. "Monsignor
Gaffney is probably not the nicest person in personality,
but for people to stoop this low to come out here and do this,
I think it's disgraceful. I'm offended by it. He may not be
the nicest person but he's a damn good priest."
The protesters cited the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops' Dallas Charter, adopted in 2002, which stipulates
that a priest be removed from his parish after any credible
sexual abuse charge is levied against him.
The Archdiocese of New York has sought to interview O'Dougherty
since he first made the accusation to the Staten Island District
Attorney's office in October 2003. The interview has not taken
place, with each side claiming the other is trying to place
too many restrictions on the meeting.
The archdiocese has cited the monsignor's long unblemished
record, and the lack of a face-to-face meeting with O'Dougherty,
as reasons for allowing the pastor to continue in his position.
"My son is a credible witness," said Dan O'Dougherty
Sr., father of the alleged victim. "My son will submit
himself for lie detector tests and everything. Would Monsignor
Gaffney do the same?"
The monsignor has denied the charges, and in January filed
a $2 million defamation of character lawsuit against O'Dougherty.
"All I have to say is, 'Innocent until proven guilty,'"
said Lenny Buccellato, a longtime parishioner of St. Charles,
as he and his daughters left mass. "We support the monsignor."
Melissa Anelli is a news reporter for the Advance. She may
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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