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Victims ask bishop to track abusers

Feb 7, 2006 |

Two victims of pedophile ex-priest James T. Hanley have asked Paterson Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli to inform communities when ex-clerics with histories of sexual abuse move into those neighborhoods.

"Since the Diocese of Paterson has been responsible for recruiting, teaching, ordaining, promoting, enabling, transferring, covering up for, defending, and continuing to provide for their former priest, shouldn't its current leader, Bishop Arthur Serratelli, notify families about the criminal threat that Hanley poses?" asked the letter's authors, Paul Steidler and Marc Serrano, both of whom allegedly were abused by Hanley years ago.

The two men sent their plea to newspapers Friday and to 16 Paterson parishes during the weekend.

Technically, only offenders convicted of sex crimes must adhere to the provisions of Megan's Law, which mandates that sex offenders register with local authorities upon moving to a new residence. However, many clerical sex offenders, including Hanley, have never been charged because their crimes came to light after the statute of limitations barred prosecution.

"There is very little, if anything, we can do for people who have not been charged," said Passaic County Prosecutor James F. Avigliano.

Until a new law is passed, he said, peaceful protest may be the only legal recourse communities have to protect themselves and their children.

"There would have to be new civil laws, which would open up the statute of limitations and open them up retroactively," said attorney Greg Gianforcaro, who represented 25 of 26 alleged clergy-abuse victims in a civil case against the diocese last year.

That case eventually was settled for $5 million.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said last week it was not responsible for tracking ex-priests who molested children.

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