Breaking News Emails
Two Roman Catholic dioceses in New Jersey began naming names Wednesday of priests who had been “credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, released a list of some 63 priests dating to 1940 and includes several clerics accused of abusing “multiple” children.
Tobin leads a flock of more than 1.3 million Roman Catholics in Union, Essex, Bergen and Hudson counties.
“The revelations of clergy sexual abuse of minors throughout this past year have provoked feelings of shock, anger, shame and deep sorrow throughout out Catholic community,” Tobin said in a statement. “It is our sincerest hope that this disclosure will help bring healing to those whose lives have been so deeply violated.”
Thirty-three of the priests on the list are dead and the rest have been "permanently removed from ministry," according to the diocese.
A short time later, the Metuchen diocese named 11 priests who have been accused of sexually abusing children, including two who are currently being investigated by the authorities.
"Abuse gets power from silence and avoidance," Bishop James Checchio said on the diocesan website. "I believe that the measures we are now taking are part of the continuing process to build a healthy and transparent culture of life in our parishes and institutions."
On the site, Checchio noted that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was ousted as Archbishop of Washington last June after being accused of allegedly abusing a minor while he was a priest in New York City nearly 50 years ago, was the first bishop of Metuchen. He served there from 1981 to 1986.
Checchio did not specify whether any of the Metuchen priests on the list allegedly committed any abuse while McCarrick was at the helm.
The dioceses of Paterson, Trenton and Camden were expected to follow suit later Wednesday and release their own catalogs of disgraced clerics.
Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer whose efforts to hold abusive priests accountable were dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight,” released a statement calling Tobin’s move “a step in the right direction.”
But, Garabedian added, the release of the names “must be viewed with some skepticism since these entities constantly participated in the criminal cover-up of sexual abuse of innocent children for decades upon decades.”
“Given the past extensive criminality of the Catholic Church, the decision to release the names now was primarily a business decision,” he said.
NBC News reached out to Maria Margiotta, the chief spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark, to ask if any of the named priests had been criminally charged. She said she wasn't prepared to answer that question at this time.
So far, the New Jersey Catholic Church has paid out more than $50 million in settlements to victims of clerical abuse, Margiotta said.
Last month, Garabedian accused lawyers from the archdiocese of Newark of using a blame-the-victim strategy to protect a priest named Michael “Mitch” Walters who allegedly abused five boys and a girl decades ago. Five of the six cases have been settled for $400,000, Garabedian said.
Walters’ name is on the list. Records indicate the 63-year-old priest, who has denied any wrongdoing, may now live in a retirement home for priests in Rutherford, New Jersey. Records show that he resides at this nursing home but a person who answered the phone would not confirm he lived there.
Earlier this month, Tobin announced the creation of a victim compensation fund that will be administered by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who served as the special master of the 9/11 victims fund, and his associate Camile Biros.
Tobin’s decision to release the names came on the heels of state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s announcement last year that he was creating a task force to look specifically into clergy abuse.
Grewal’s inspiration was the bombshell grand jury report released last year by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro that identified 301 “predator priests” who victimized more than 1,000 children — and accused the church of covering up their crimes.