Five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey released on Wednesday the names of clergy they say have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. The incidents date back as far as 1940.
“Some of the most powerful priests of our diocese, with the most authority, are on this list. Rising all the way to the Vatican,” said Father John Bambrick of the diocese of Trenton.
A total of 188 alleged perpetrators — eleven from the Diocese of Metuchen, 63 from the Archdiocese of Newark, 28 in Diocese of Paterson, 30 from the Diocese of Trenton and 56 names from the Diocese of Camden.
“Particularly the diocese of Camden should be a large number because those were dumping grounds for abusive priests,” said Bambrick. “They were unworthy, the place was unworthy, they were a perfect match as far as the powers that be, how they would view it.”
Bambrick — himself a victim of abuse — says he reported one of the names on the list when he was a young priest because he saw him taking boys alone on trips. But he says the dioceses would not listen to him and even scolded him for ruining a priest’s life.
About eight years later – that priest plead guilty to sexual abuse of a minor and has since died.
The majority of the people on the lists – 108 are dead. Of the rest, 78 are listed as removed from the ministry, and two are listed as having left the diocese and their current whereabouts are unknown.
“I knew about Monsignor Punderson. I had spoken to his victim many years ago. Monsignor Punderson worked for three popes: John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. He must have recently been removed. The list says he’s been removed, but he was the third in command at the Apostolic Signatura and the Sacred Roman Rota, which are the Church’s high courts in Rome. He’s been there for 30 years,” said Bambrick.
Bambrick believes that while this list may help other victims come forward, it’s too little, too late and there are many names that do not appear on it.
“What we need is transparency. And that would be the release of the files where you would see all of the — all of the people who have been accused, and what was done and what wasn’t done — who covered it up,” said Bambrick.
In September, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal set up a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic dioceses.
On Wednesday, he issued a statement saying while the release of the names is a positive first step, “we know from the hundreds of calls that we have received over our tip line that there are many others who were abused as children and as adults.”
Robert Hoatson is the co-founder of Road to Recovery – a place for survivors of sexual abuse – and he too is a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy.
“The only reason the bishops are doing what they’re doing this week, is not because they’re being proactive, it’s because they’re being reactive,” said Hoatson.
Cardinal Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark declined our request for an interview but issued a statement saying, “it is our sincerest hope that this disclosure will help bring healing to those whose lives have been so deeply violated” and they have a “zero-tolerance policy for any type of mistreatment or misconduct involving children and young adults.”
All five of the state’s catholic dioceses have approved an independent victim compensation program.
But Hoatson says that isn’t enough.
“We would like the catholic conference of New Jersey to stop lobbying for the blockage of the Child Victims Act,” Hoatson said.
That proposed legislation would extend the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse. Hoatson says right now, victims would have had to report sexual abuse by the age of 21.
“Which is absolutely ridiculous,” Hoatson said.
Hoatson will stand as an invited guest of Gov. Cuomo tomorrow as he signs a similar bill into New York law. As for the pope, he has declared zero tolerance globally, and there is a summit in Rome this month.