The Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden last night announced that it has turned over to local prosecutors the names of 19 priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.
Twelve of the names already had been known from an ongoing civil suit brought against the diocese by victims of alleged abuse.
Last night, the diocese disclosed that it had forwarded the names of seven other priests against whom “substantiated claims” had been made. All of the allegations involve victims who are no longer minors, and none of the seven is currently in an “active ministry,” officials said.
In forwarding the names of the seven, diocese officials noted that they were exceeding New Jersey’s requirements for reporting sexual abuse of children.
“This decision by the diocese to go beyond state reporting requirements is more than simple disclosure,” Camden Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in a press release. “It is hoped that this information, along with our long-standing willingness to assist and cooperate with prosecutors, will allow authorities to act on claims they believe may have merit, with the ultimate goal being the protection of our children.”
Bishop DiMarzio also announced the establishment of a panel dominated by laymen and law enforcement officials that will review the diocese’s procedures in handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
He also announced that the diocese will set up a toll-free telephone number, run by a lawyer independent of the diocese, for those who wish to report allegations.
“Our children are a sacred trust,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “They are the future of our church and our society. The Diocese of Camden is committed to immediate, tangible steps to ensure these cases are responded to as promptly as possible and that we prevent new cases from arising.”
Catholic dioceses around the country have been under pressure to disclose the identity of alleged abusers amid a growing national scandal that has led critics to accuse many bishops of covering up for pedophile priests.
The Camden Diocese’s decision to turn over the names of priests brings it in line with the actions of the archdioceses in New York and Boston, which have also given names to authorities.
Although the head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, has taken steps to tighten church procedures, he has said he would not turn over the names of priests accused in old allegations.
The cardinal has said his action was based on the wishes of many former abuse victims who are now adults and do not want the old allegations dredged up.
Meanwhile, in the abuse trial being heard in Superior Court in Atlantic County, Joan Dougherty, the mother of two men who have accused a retired priest of sexually abusing them, broke down in tears on the witness stand as four lawyers for the Camden Diocese took turns attempting to chip away at her credibility.
Dougherty’s sons, Philip and Robert Young, who say Msgr. Philip Rigney groped and sodomized them as teens 18 years ago, are among 18 plaintiffs who have sued the diocese, contending it tolerated the abuse and attempted a cover-up.
Lawyers for the diocese have strenuously denied that.
The Youngs have accused Msgr. Rigney, 84, of assaulting them.
The priest denied the abuse in a deposition last year. He is expected to testify Monday via video-teleconferencing from Palm Beach County, Fla.