New Jersey Priest Criticizes Church's Handling of Sex Abuse Allegations

By Martin Finucane
Associated Press, carried in Newsday [Boston MA]
June 4, 2003

BOSTON -- A New Jersey priest on Wednesday criticized the handling of the sexual abuse crisis by the Roman Catholic church in his state and said he had been a victim of retaliation for speaking out about it.

"I believe the church still hasn't confronted the scope of the issue," said the Rev. Robert Hoatson.

"I'm not sure we've been straightforward and honest with the victims, with the church and society, in general," Hoatson said at a news conference at the office of a lawyer who represents two men suing the church in Boston.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark said Hoatson "appears to be a troubled man" and defended the archdiocese's handling of the clergy sex abuse issue.

Jim Goodness, the archdiocesan spokesman, said a review board to look into charges of priest misconduct had been set up by the archdiocese 10 years ago and there was "not a single priest in this diocese who is in ministry today against whom an allegation has been lodged."

"What he's saying is ... not being supported by the actual facts," he said.

Hoatson was removed last month as director of schools at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Newark, N.J., a combined Catholic elementary and high school in Newark.

Goodness said Hoatson's removal was "solely related to performance and personality issues at the school."

But Hoatson said he felt he had been a victim of retaliation, noting that when he was terminated, he was told by Bishop Arthur Serratelli, the archdiocese's vicar general, that Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark "strongly urges you to tone down your language about this scandal."

Hoatson also produced a letter to him from Serratelli, dated a few days after his termination, that said he could officiate at his school's graduation, but "Archbishop Myers has requested that I ask you to refrain from making any comment or statement whatsoever, before, during or after the ceremony, concerning your change of assignment or concerning sexual abuse."

Hoatson remains a priest and continues to live in church housing. He said he was asking church superiors for four months off.

He said he would continue to speak out.

"We can't be silent on this issue," he said. "I have made a commitment to my God and to the kids ... to tell the truth."

Hoatson spoke at the offices of attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is representing two men who said they were abused by Monsignor Frederick Ryan two decades ago at Catholic Memorial High School. Hoatson has been deposed as a potential witness in the case because he worked at the school at the time.

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