Diocese of Brooklyn

Minh Nguyen [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

The Diocese of Brooklyn was founded in 1853 when Brooklyn was considered a separate city from New York.  Today, the Diocese comprises the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. 

Unlike the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn has released a list of 108 names of credibly accused clergy.  Like most of the archdioceses and dioceses around the country that have published such lists, the one released by the Diocese of Brooklyn is based on their own internal reports and figures. It’s likely that the number of priest abusers in Brooklyn is much higher than the 108 published. 

Similar to most Catholic dioceses, the bishops of Brooklyn routinely transferred priests who were accused of sexually molesting children.  Under the tenure of Bishop Francis Mugavero (1968-1990), the practice of moving wayward priests was common and it would be done in secrecy.  The bishop receiving the priest was not told of the abusing priests’ past and assumed that the priest was in good standing.

Fr. James Russo was transferred to the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 1980 after allegations that he had abused young boys at St. Thomas the Apostle in Woodhaven, NY in 1973 and at St. Virgilius in Broad Channel, NY in 1977.  Russo became a pastor in several St. Petersburg parishes as well as being chairman of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of St. Petersburg before resigning from ministry in 1997. 

Fr. William Authenrieth was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Brooklyn and was assigned to St. Vincent Ferrer in Brooklyn, NY from 1971-1973.  After an allegation of abuse at that parish, Authenrieth was moved to the Diocese of Orlando.  Authenrieth abused many more children in the Diocese of Orlando before finally being removed from the priesthood in 1985. 

AlexiusHoratius [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Fr. Romano Ferraro is a convicted pedophile serving a life sentence for his crimes.  He was ordained in 1968, the same year Mugavero was made the bishop of Brooklyn.  Ferraro was allowed to abuse children for more than 30 years before being arrested in 2002.  Mugavero moved Ferraro from the Diocese of Brooklyn many times.  Ferraro served in Rhode Island, Florida, Missouri, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.  He had two stints on sick leave and spent nearly a year at St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland for abusive priests in 1989.  Even after that, he remained a priest in good standing with the Diocese of Brooklyn until his arrest in 2002.

Mugavero’s successor in Brooklyn was Boston’s Auxiliary Bishop Thomas V. Daily (1990-2003).  He had served as one of Cardinal Bernard Law’s top lieutenants in the Archdiocese of Boston and was instrumental in the transfer and cover-up of notorious serial pedophile Fr. John Geoghan. 

In a 1991 letter to a bishop in Venezuela, he endorsed the Rev. Enrique Diaz Jimenez for reassignment there – at a time when the priest faced a 60-count molestation indictment in New York. The letter referred to the criminal charges as “a very difficult situation” but continued: “We have never had a single problem, and everything we have to say is positive.” After the priest was convicted of abusing boys as young as 6, sentenced to four months in jail and quickly deported from the United States, he was allowed to return to work as a priest in Venezuela, his home country. Father Diaz was suspended there in the late 1990s, after 18 boys from a rural town reported abuse. He then moved to Colombia and was sentenced to house arrest this year for more crimes against children.

This is what the NY Times wrote about Fr. Jimenez in 2002, “Father Díaz, 59, has also left an international trail of deceit and manipulation, betraying the trust of parishioners in three countries while sexually abusing dozens of boys over two decades, according to interviews and a review of criminal records and church documents in the United States, Venezuela and Colombia.”

In 2002, Bishop Daily provided the district attorney with the names of 15 priests who had been accused of sexual abuse.  At the time, Daily was praised for his cooperation with law enforcement.  However, now that the Diocese of Brooklyn has added an additional 93 names to that list, Daily’s actions are more obfuscation than transparent, especially since by the Diocese’s own admission, most of the names involved allegations from decades ago.  Daily resigned at the age of 75 having successfully covered-up for the majority of priest predators in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (October 8, 2012)

Daily’s successor and present bishop of Brooklyn is Nicholas DiMarzio.  DiMarzio served as the Auxiliary Bishop of Newark before becoming the Bishop of the Diocese of Camden, NJ in 1999.  He was named the Bishop of Brooklyn in 2003.

DiMarzio has spoken publicly about the priest abuse scandal but his actions belie his words.  According to one media report, DiMarzio ignored his own diocesan guidelines concerning a priest from Colombia who’d been accused of sexual abuse.  Here is an excerpt of that story,

“For five years, Father Roberto Cadavid led mass, heard confessions and guided children through the confirmation process as a priest at Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens, until he returned to his native Colombia in the summer of 2017. It wasn’t until 10 months later that his old parishioners were informed of why he left the United States: children in Colombia had come forward to accuse Cadavid of sexual abuse.

A review of records and correspondence by Gothamist shows that the Diocese of Brooklyn bypassed its own safety protocols to hire Cadavid in 2012. When the Diocese of Medellín eventually informed Brooklyn about Cadavid’s long history of alleged abuse in June 2017, the diocese let Cadavid go quietly.

By the time Cadavid arrived in Brooklyn in December 2012 to start his work here, at least four young boys had come forward accusing Cadavid of abusing them, starting in 2005 when he was director of a school half an hour outside of Medellín. . . According a 2010 audit of diocese protocols for hiring international priests conducted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Brooklyn requires recommendation letters from foreign bishops to include a specific assurance that the priest has never been charged with a crime, and that the priest ‘has not manifested behavioral problems in the past that would indicate he might deal with minors in an inappropriate manner.’

When the Bishop of Medellín, Ricardo Tobón, wrote to the Bishop of Brooklyn, Nicholas DiMarzio, in November of 2012, he gave his blessing for the transfer. But his short letter included no such assurance language. The Diocese of Brooklyn hired him anyway.”

Now that the Child Victims Act has been signed by Governor Cuomo, it is certain that more survivors of sexual abuse will come forward and there will be names of Brooklyn priests added to the list of those accused of sexual abuse.