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Alleged Victims of Sex Abuse By Priests Ask New Jersey Bishop For Answers

Apr 21, 2002 | AP Eleven men who say they were molested by Roman Catholic priests angrily confronted a bishop, telling graphic stories of abuse and demanding that he make sure no one else is harmed.

Paterson Bishop Frank Rodimer said he had no immediate answers for the men, who were attending an event Saturday called the "Mendham Survivors Summit." Rodimer was invited by Mark Vincent Serrano, one of eight men at the summit who says he was abused by the Rev. James Hanley, a priest in the Paterson Diocese.

"Jim Hanley performed oral sex on me dozens and dozens of times," Serrano told the bishop, who squirmed uncomfortably during an hour-long session at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, where the pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Lasch, reported the abuse several years ago.

"I asked you to do something about that," Serrano said. "You never have."

Asked Rodimer: "What are you suggesting? I know, vigilance and all that, but what else?"

The question drew gasps and groans from the audience.

"Where is the moral indignation? Where is the outrage in your heart?" Serrano demanded. "Bishop, for God's sakes, if you have to ask that question, you don't get it."

Rodimer offered sympathy and said a solution would take time. He also promised to reach out to Hanley's former parishes.

When asked if he believed Hanley should be jailed, the bishop said yes, then said he wasn't sure.

Rodimer would not discuss the case of the Rev. Peter Osinski, a priest from the Camden Diocese with whom he once shared a beach house.

Osinski pleaded guilty to molesting a boy in the house in 1998, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The boy and his family also received a monetary settlement.

The Paterson Diocese has said the bishop was unaware of the abuse until the priest's 1997 arrest.

Hanley, who was defrocked in 1986, was investigated by authorities, but never prosecuted in Serrano's case because the statute of limitations had expired.

Hanley declined comment when visited by an Associated Press reporter last month, and his lawyer, Matthew Sumner, did not return telephone calls Friday and Saturday.

The men accused Rodimer of hushing or patronizing them when they told him of abuse in the past.

They were frustrated that Hanley was never prosecuted, and asked the bishop to place a photograph of the priest in the diocesan newspaper, asking any recent victims to come forward.

Rodimer would not commit to such a step.

Paul Steidler noted that Hanley lives in a diocesan residence across the street from a Catholic elementary school in Paterson.

Steidler said he told the principal, but that the bishop should have done it. He said others in the neighborhood should also know about allegations against the priest.

Diocese spokeswoman Marianna Thompson said privacy laws, including state sex offender notification laws, prohibit the diocese from telling people in the neighborhood about the allegations.

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