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Diocese Says It Can Handle Abuse Claims

Jan 15, 2003 | Herald News The Diocese of Paterson is now in a strong position to properly handle future cases of sex abuse by clergy, Herbert K. Tillyer, vicar general of the Diocese of Paterson, told a small crowd Wednesday night at Our Lady of the Lake parish.

"We can just about guarantee that any allegations that come into the church we would respond to appropriately," Tillyer said.

He set a more confident tone than the last time a diocesean official met with the public. Last year, when Bishop Frank J. Rodimer held meetings with parishes where an abusive priest worked, he apologized for his oversights.

Tillyer's words come a week after the diocese said that there was enough evidence to try the other four priests accused of abusing minors. Their cases will now go to the Vatican, which will decide if they merit a trial.

The talk was an informational session for Catholics interested in learning more about the diocese's policy toward sex abuse by clergy. It drew about 50 people.

The process is involved and some came because they had questions.

"How do you talk to kids about this?" asked Terry Quinlan, director of religious education at Our Lady of the Lake. "I feel like there is a lot of misinformation out there."

Tillyer's presence also drew people from outside the parish, including alleged abuse victims, victim advocates and members of the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful.

Ann Zouvelekis, president of the North Jersey chapter of Voice of the Faithful, who attended Tillyer's talk, said she was happy that the four priests alleged to have abused minors will probably stand trial.

But she said she was confused about how the process functioned.

"It's still very unclear to me how this all works," she said. "What are the steps involved, and what is the time frame?"

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