Victim of priest sex abuse: Christie, Buono, Serratelli could use ‘moral authority’ to help send a message at ceremony

( MENDHAM — A date has been set to rededicate a monument to child victims of church sex abuse that has been destroyed twice in as many years — even though repairs won’t be finished when the ceremony is held.

A ceremony will be held April 28, at 2 p.m., at St. Joseph Church in Mendham, where former Rev. James Hanley abused several children.

Organizer Bill Crane, who, as a child, had been among Hanley’s victims, is extending invitations to both Gov. Chris Christie and State Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie’s challenger in the gubernatorial race. Also invited will be Bishop Arthur Joseph Serratelli of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Patterson.

“I’ve gotten so many messages from people saying, ‘Why are you making this a political issue?'” Crane said, as last month he said Christie should attend the dedication, or perhaps issue a proclamation recognizing April as Child Sex Abuse Awareness month. The governor, a Mendham resident whose family attends St. Joseph’s, hadn’t responded to an invitation sent last year, when the millstone memorial was rededicated after an earlier instance of vandalism, Crane has said.
“But this isn’t a political issue,” Crane said. “These are people who are in a position of moral authority to create some positive change in New Jersey. Frankly, I don’t mind saying I think it should be the other way around. They should be contacting us to ask what they can do to help.”

Authorities are still working to determine who vandalized St. Joseph Church’s memorial to child sex abuse victims in early March. Morris County Crimestoppers is offering $2,000 to anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest or indictment of the responsible person or people; anyone with any information can call CrimeStoppers at 973-Cop-Call or 1-800-Sheriff.

Crane led the drive to create the monument in honor of James Kelly, a 37-year-old victim of Hanley’s who committed suicide. He then led the effort to replace it, after borough resident Gordon Ellis allegedly took a sledgehammer to the monument in 2011. And now he’s working to see it repaired again.

Crane said progress toward the new dedication is going well. A new security light has been installed. A survivor of clergy sex abuse has contacted the church and donated funds for multiple security cameras, Crane said. And an anonymous donor is willing to pay for a reception at the Black Horse Tavern in Mendham, to follow the April 28 ceremony.

But repairs to the memorial itself will take some time. The memorial features statues of a boy and a girl alongside a millstone. The boy was slightly damaged, but the girl was shattered.

At the ceremony, Crane said, that imagery will prove powerful. He’s seeking to have several female speakers, to highlight the damage sex abuse has done to young girls.

“The impact on boys has been at the forefront for some time. It’s time we focused on what’s been done to girls as well,” Crane said.

Saveral of Hanley’s victims have been girls, he said. Hanley was defrocked and removed from his role at St. Joseph in 2003 after admitting he sexually abused about a dozen child parishioners in Mendham and Pompton Plains between 1968 and 1982. Hanley had been accused of victimizing several more children; in 2004, the Diocese of Paterson settled lawsuits with 21 of Hanley’s accusers for nearly $5 million.

Though Crane has seen great support fundraising for the memorial restoration, he remains hopeful that Ellis — the man accused in the first vandalism — will be ordered to pay restitution if found guilty. Ellis was scheduled to appear in court April 3, but that appearance was postponed. He is pursuing a mental health defense.

“We’re hoping that the judge will send a message — if you destroy such a venerated object, we’re going to throw the book at you,” Crane said.

Crane praised St. Joseph’s Church for its participation and cooperation in hosting, repairing and protecting the memorial.

He contrasted St. Joseph’s work toward healing with the position taken by Delbarton School of Morris Township in a lawsuit — it’s alleging an attorney violated a confidentiality agreement by publicly discussing a settlement with a teenager who had been a victim of sexual misconduct by a monk at the school. The same lawyer represents six other men who joined a lawsuit earlier this year alleging decades-old sexual abuse and/or sexual misconduct by Delbarton monks.

Delbarton and the attorney, Gregory Gianforcaro of Phillipsburg, were expected to appear in court Friday on that matter

“St. Joe’s has really been a model of how to move forward,” Crane said.

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Victim of priest sex abuse: Christie, Buono, Serratelli could use ‘moral authority’ to help send a message at ceremony
Louis C. Hochman/
April 12, 2013