Nearly 50 priests whose assignments brought them to Atlantic, Cape May or Cumberland county churches had sexual abuse allegations against them deemed credible, according to a list the Camden Diocese released this week.
“To be certain, the darkest stain on the Catholic Church in the last century was the sexual abuse of minors by priests,” Bishop Dennis Sullivan wrote in releasing the names. “Unfortunately, we have all learned that this ‘filth,’ as Pope Benedict correctly called it, was more pervasive than anyone imagined, or even thought possible.”
Each diocese put out a list Wednesday, with Camden having 56 priests since it was founded in 1937. Of those, 48 had been assigned to local churches, including 18 in Atlantic City, 16 in Vineland and 10 in Cape May.
“We know the release of these names may cause others who have been abused to come forward,” Sullivan wrote. “With that in mind, the Dioceses of New Jersey encourage victims to register with the recently announced Independent Victims Compensation Program when that program is launched in the coming months. The program will handle submissions, evaluations and settlements of individual claims of sexual abuse of a minor.”
Most of the alleged incidents happened to teenage boys in the 1970s and ’80s, with the most recent allegation coming in 1995, he said.
The list “includes those who admitted to the abuse, those who were found guilty after a trial in the church courts or the civil courts, and others against who evidence was so overwhelming as to be virtually unquestionable,” Sullivan said.
It does not include four allegations from the 1960s and ’70s that are being referred to the Diocesan Review Board to determine their credibility.
The board consists mostly of laypeople not employed by the diocese or any parish, the bishop explained.
Sullivan stressed that the allegations were against a relatively small percentage of the more than 800 priests who served the South Jersey diocese.
Most of the men on the list are dead.
“This is not in any way to excuse what had happened – and it certainly is not to excuse the failings of bishops and other leaders in the church at that time,” Sullivan said.
This is not a new issue nor the first action the church has taken, he said.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established
The Charter for the Protection of Children was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002. That same year, New Jersey put a Memorandum of Understanding in place to facilitate the reporting of child sexual abuse to local county prosecutors.
“This diocese has done all in its power to make our schools, parishes and ministries safe havens for everyone, and it will continue to do so,” he said. “As we have done often, we pray that God will continue to look after the victims and survivors of the priest sex abuse scandal. We ask that (God) give them hope, provide them with healing and bring comfort to their wounded souls.”
TO REPORT ABUSE:
Information on how to report sexual abuse in the church can
be found by clicking HERE.
Victims also can call the hotline at 800-964-6588.