Revs Called 'Serial Child Molesters'

By Mike Claffey and Bill Hutchinson
New York Daily News
February 11, 2003

Long Island Catholic leaders played a shell game with pedophile priests to cover up allegations the clerics sexually abused teens after plying them with alcohol and pornography, officials said yesterday.

A scathing grand jury report exposes priests in the Diocese of Rockville Centre as "serial child molesters" instead of prayerful do-gooders, said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

"In many instances, these priests first introduced these children to pornographic movies and alcohol as a means of entrapping them in a sexually abusive relationship," Spota said. "Many of the crimes were committed in rectories, and in one instance the sacristy of a church."

When parents complained, diocese officials hushed up the allegations with "deception and intimidation," the grand jury report says. Then, the accused priests were shuffled off to other parishes, said Emily Constant, chief of the Suffolk County district attorney's child abuse and domestic violence bureau.

Some of the allegations date back 45 years. Others are as recent as 2001, officials said.

Spota, a practicing Catholic, said that if law enforcement officials had known of the abuse before the statute of limitations ran out, at least 23 priests would be facing felony charges.

The alleged pervert priests were not named in the report, but Spota said their behavior demands changes in the law.

47 victims heard

The grand jury, which heard from 47 victims and reviewed thousands of pages of confidential church documents, recommended ending the statute of limitations law in sexual abuse cases. It also said church leaders should be held liable for not immediately reporting sex abuse charges to law enforcement officials.

Spokeswoman Joanne Novarro said the "diocese unequivocally rejects the characterization of its actions given by this report."

She said it was "simply not true" that church leaders did nothing to discipline accused priests and denied that they deceived and intimidated victims into keeping quiet.

Bishop William Murphy, who took over the diocese in 2001, was not available for comment. He was in Boston yesterday preparing to testify before a grand jury investigating whether he and other church officials can be prosecuted for allegedly protecting abusive priests there.

Originally published on February 11, 2003


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