Former Delbarton student expects flood of complaints of clergy sex abuse

Sep 11, 2018 | All

(Morris NewsBee News) Former Delbarton School student Bill Crane expects the findings of a new state task force will show the problem of sexual abuse of children by priests in New Jersey is “100 times worse than anyone thought it would be.”

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced on Sept. 6 that he is forming a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey, as well as any efforts to cover up such abuse.

Grewal has authorized the task force to present evidence to a state grand jury, including through the use of subpoenas to compel testimony and the production of documents, in addition to other investigative tools.

Grewal’s move came after the recent publication of a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury alleging more than 1,000 people were sexually abused by Catholic priests in that state over a 70-year period. The report also alleged a cover-up by church leaders and accusations of sexual abuse against at least four priests who spent part of their ministries in New Jersey.

A statement from the Diocese of Paterson said the diocese will continue to cooperate with authorities.

“The Diocese of Paterson has fully cooperated with the New Jersey state Attorney General’s office for the past 16 years through the Memorandum of Understanding, an agreement that has been in effect between the five Roman Catholic dioceses in the State of New Jersey, the local county prosecutors and the State Attorney General’s Office,” the statement said. “We look forward to continuing that cooperation going forward.’

Lawsuit Settled

In July, Crane, formerly of Mendham, settled a lawsuit that alleged that he was sexually abused by Delbarton monks in the 1970s. He has been involved for nearly a decade with efforts to force the church to investigate and take action against priests who have sexually abused people.

Crane called the attorney general’s action “mind blowing” because the investigation is in the hands of a state task force and out of control of the Catholic church.

“That was what we wanted,” said Crane.

Crane said he has information about sexual abuse allegations at Delbarton that have been ordered sealed by a judge. But he said he will provide all the information to the task force and a subsequent grand jury, if one is convened.

Already, the state has received numerous calls about alleged sexual abuse by clergy. The calls have come in to a hotline the state has created for information about alleged sexual abuse by priests. A spokesman for the attorney general said added staff have been brought on to monitor the hotline calls. The hotline is staffed by trained professionals and operates on a 24/7 basis. The toll-free number is 855-363-6548.

“They are calling it a criminal investigation,” said Crane. “It doesn’t get any better in New Jersey. They are not fooling around. I will cooperate fully and give all the information I have to them.”

Crane also said that a July report from St. Mary’s Abbey and Delbarton indicated the reports of alleged sexual abuse are greater than previously reported. On July 20, Abbot Richard Cronin, leader of St. Mary’s Abbey, and newly installed Delbarton School Headmaster, Father Michael Tidd, posted “A Letter to the Delbarton Community” on the school website about the “allegations” of abuse. In it, the leaders of the abbey and school acknowledged that, since 1988, 30 individuals have reported having been sexually abused between 1968 and 1999 by 13 present or former monks from St. Mary’s Abbey and one retired lay faculty member.

Crane said he spoke with Richard Sipe, one of the leading experts on sex abuse and the failure of the Catholic Church to be accountable. Sipe died on Aug. 9.

“He (Sipe) said the crimes of covering up are greater than the actual crimes themselves,” Crane said.

Attorney Gregory Gianforcaro of Phillipsburg has represented Crane and others who have alleged they were sexually abused by priests.

“I expect the public will learn that the same things that happened in Pennsylvania are exactly similar in the state of new Jersey, including cover ups to conceal abuse,” Gianforcaro said.

Statute Of Limitations

The lawyer said that priests and church leaders will not be fully accountable until the state eliminates a current two year statute of limitations for civil suits alleging abuse. Pending legislation, S477/A3648, would remove the civil statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse.

The Catholic Church invoked the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 to combat clerical sex abuse. Crane Crane said the findings in Pennsylvania show that the Dallas Charter has failed to stem the problem.

“It was the greatest PR stunt in church history,” Crane said.

Crane said recent revelations of sexual abuse of a New Jersey boy by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 88, were the “tipping point” for Grewal’s decision to form the task force.

McCarrick was removed from public ministry in June after he was accused of sexually abusing a teenage altar boy in New York nearly 50 years ago. Pope Francis has since accepted McCarrick’s offer to resign from the College of Cardinals. The pope ordered McCarrick to conduct a “life of prayer and penance” in a home to be designated by the pontiff until a church trial is held.

Gianforcaro said problem of abuse by priests has continued since the 2002 charter as has the church’s reluctance to investigate claims. As an example, Gianforcaro said he represented one person who warned the Archdiocese of Newark in 2003 about the actions of a priest, the Rev. Kevin Gugliotta.

Gugliotta was sentenced last year to 11 to 23 months in prison for having child pornography at his home. Gugliotta was a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark and lived in Wayne County, Pa.

“Until the civil statute of limitations is eliminated and documents are disclosed and entities held legally responsible, you will not get the full scope of what went on,” Gianforcaro said. “The task force will get my full cooperation.”

Former Delbarton student expects flood of complaints of clergy sex abuse
Phil Garber
Morris NewsBee News
September 11, 2018