New Jersey’s five Roman Catholic dioceses on Wednesday released the names of nearly 200 priests and deacons they say were credibly accused of sexual abuse.
The releases from the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Camden, Trenton, Metuchen, and Paterson come as the child sexual abuse scandal in the church continues to unfold and just five months after New Jersey authorities announced a statewide investigation of allegations of abuse and cover-ups.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark, said he wants to restore trust in the scandal-scarred church and provide solace to victims, and he said releasing the names could help get justice for those abused.
“The disclosure of this list of names is not an endpoint in our process. Rather, it is an expression of our commitment to protecting our children, and a new level of transparency in the way we report and respond to allegations of abuse,” Tobin said in a statement. “We must protect our children, first, foremost, and always.”
Yet some critics viewed Wednesday’s news as damage control by a church they said had been uncooperative in investigating child sex abuse.
“My message would be take these lists with a large dose of salt,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has represented scores of clergy sex abuse victims and was portrayed in the film “Spotlight,” which profiled the Boston Globe’s seminal investigation of clergy sex abuse.
Garabedian suggested the church is incapable of policing itself and said Wednesday’s disclosure may be an incomplete picture of child sex abuse at the hands of New Jersey clergy.
“You’re dealing with an entity that has practiced the wholesale sexual abuse of children and the cover-up of the wholesale sexual abuse of children for decades upon decades,” he said. “They’re only releasing the list now because it’s a business decision.”
In September New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal formed a task force led by a former sex crimes prosecutor to investigate incidences of clergy sex abuse and efforts to cover up the crimes.
Grewal’s announcement came shortly after a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed rampant child sex abused in the Catholic Church going back decades.
“I am pleased to see that our task force’s grand jury investigation has prompted the dioceses to finally take some measures to hold predator priests accountable,” Grewal said in a statement.
“While this is a positive first step towards transparency and accountability, I hope this spirit of openness continues during the course of our ongoing investigation and in response to our requests for records and information,” he added.
The task force made its first arrest in January, when the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office charged 63-year-old Father Thomas P. Ganley with aggravated sexual assault.
Authorities said Ganley sexually abused a child between the ages of 14 and 17 in the early 1990s when he was a priest at Saint Cecilia Church in Iselin.