What’s up with New Jersey Catholic officials?
I’m not talking about the outrageous Fr. Michael Fugee case in Newark. I’m talking about these recent cases, all of which have surfaced in less than one month:
-- Fr. Matthew Riedlinger, who was exposed Sunday as having sent 1,200 inappropriate sexual text messages to what he thought was a teenaged boy and had sexually harassed at least five teenagers and young men, some of whom were seminarians. (For months, Trenton Bishop David O'Connell has kept this hidden.)
-- Fr. Kevin Keelan, who said in a church bulletin that "blabbing" was a sin and that they were not entitled to more information about Fr. Riedlinger.
-- Fr. Vincent Inghilterra, against whom at least one child sex abuse case has settled. (For at least three months, Trenton Bishop O'Connell has kept silent about these accusations).
-- Fr. Victor Phelan, whose status as a credibly accused child molesting cleric was hidden for months. (Newark’s Archbishop Myers has said nothing about them, even though a settlement was paid to at least one victim.)
-- Fr. John P. Nickas of the Newark Archdiocese, against a child sex abuse settlement was disclosed in September.
--Fr. Richard Mieliwocki, who was defrocked by the Vatican because of child sex crimes, but Newark Archbishop Myers only posted a tiny notice in his archdiocesan paper and refused to express remorse for his victims or beg others who he hurt to come forward and get help.
--Fr. Horacio Daniel Medina, whose defrocking was handled in the very same irresponsible way.
--Fr. Joseph Shannon of Camden, a credibly accused serial predator, who passed away and (as best we can tell) Bishop Dennis Sullivan told no one and expressed no remorse for his victims nor asked any of them to step forward and get help.
(And in late August, three more credibly accused child molesting clerics were “outed” in New Jersey: Fr. Joseph B. DiPeri, Fr. Eusebio Pantoja and Fr. Rubin Abaya. They worked in at least seven towns - Perth Amboy, Rumson, Jersey City, Newark, Garfield, Summit and Englewood (all in three dioceses – Newark, Metuchen and Trenton.)
It’s important to note that most of this surfaced in spite of, not because of, New Jersey Catholic officials. It was made public because of brave victims (like Timothy Schmalz), caring attorneys (like Mitchell Garabedian), persistent journalists (like Mark Mueller of the Star Ledger), and others.
Again, I can’t help but wonder what’s up with New Jersey’s Catholic bishops? Have they forgotten that the official US church abuse policy allegedly mandates “openness and transparency” in clergy sex abuse cases?
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.