clergy abuse case
PHOTO COURTESY JOSH APPLEGATE/UNSPLASH

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Six Catholic clergy members who had served in Montclair churches over the past 80 years are included on a list of clergy accused of sexual abuse released by the church on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

The Archdiocese of Newark list included 63 clergy that had been “credibly” accused of sexual abuse.

The release of the list comes months after the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation in September 2018 into sexual abuse allegations within the Catholic dioceses throughout New Jersey.

Six clergy members on the list had been assigned to parishes or chaplain posts in Montclair at some point during their ministries.

In a letter posted on Wednesday, Feb. 13, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark, apologized and asked for forgiveness. He said the publishing of the list is an “initial step” in restoring trust in the church leadership.

“The revelations of clergy sexual abuse of minors throughout this past year have provoked feelings of shock, anger, shame and deep sorrow throughout our Catholic community. Victims, their families and the faithful are rightfully outraged over the abuses perpetrated against minors. Additionally, the failure of church leadership to immediately remove suspected abusers from ministry is particularly reprehensible,” Tobin said in the letter.

In the letter, Tobin said that the list resulted from a review of archdiocesan records going back to 1940. All of the names on the list had been previously reported to law enforcement agencies, he said.

The list does not specify which parish or parishes were involved at the time the allegations against each priest were made only the parishes they served, or the years the abuse in each case was alleged to have occurred. However, the list indicates that none of the mentioned cases involve any active litigation. The archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for information regarding some of the specific allegations against the clergy in the list.

The six Montclair-area clergy mentioned on the list are:

  • James A. Carey, ordained in 1936, was assigned to Immaculate Conception Church, now part of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish;
  • Dennis Cocozza, ordained in 1975, was a pastor at St. Cassian;
  • Alan Guglielmo, who was ordained in 1968, was a chaplain at Mountainside Hospital;
  • John Nickas, who was ordained in 1966, was assigned to St. Peter Claver Church;
  • Robert Svec, ordained in 1954, was the pastor at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, now part of St. Teresa of Calcutta;
  • and Michael Walters, ordained in 1981, was a pastor at St. Cassian.

Walters and Guglielmo are still living, according to the list, and have been removed from active ministry, and the other four have since died.

Nickas, Svec and Walters were alleged to have “multiple” victims, according to the list, while the list indicates “one” with the other priests.

In 2016, Walters was removed from ministry over allegations that he had abused two children during his time at St. Cassian in the early 1980s, according to media reports.

“No member of the clergy with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor remains in ministry,” said Tobin in his release.

A new Independent Victim Compensation Program has been established. The program will allow those sexually abused as minors by clergy to seek compensation as an alternative to litigation “with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law,” according to a press release issued on Feb. 11.

All compensation paid will come from church funds. No public money will be used to pay eligible claims.

The investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office began one month after an investigation in Pennsylvania found that more than 1,000 children had been abused by 300 priests. The report on that investigation was released in August 2018.

The church has hired two administrators – Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros – for the Catholic Dioceses in New York and Pennsylvania. They have administered compensation programs as the Penn State sexual abuse claims, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Fund.

In 2018, New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses paid a combined $50 million to settle legal cases brought by victims of sexual abuse.

In 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to address allegations of sexual abuse by clergy against minors.

Anyone who is aware of any sexual misconduct by a member of the clergy is urged to call the archdiocese’s victim assistance coordinator at 201-407-3256.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has also established a clergy abuse hotline: 855-363-6548.