The Diocese of Paterson was established in 1937, the same year the Diocese of Camden was established. As of 2013, there were 166 diocesan priests, 96 retired priests, 124 religious priests, 136 permanent deacons, 19 retired permanent deacons, 178 male religious and 677 female religious ministering in the diocese, which had a Catholic population of 426,000 out of a total (Catholic and non-Catholic) population of 1,143,500 people. At that time, the Diocese of Paterson was the 44th largest U.S. diocese in terms of population.
On February 13, 2019, the Diocese of Paterson released the names of 28 priests who worked in the Diocese of Paterson and molested children. Their service spanned generations.
According to the list, 16 — over half of the priests and deacons listed — had multiple victims. Twelve of the priests accused are still alive.
Out of the 28 listed, 12 of the priests and deacons served in Sussex County at some point.
Some of the names are reminders that the Catholic Church often failed to take strong action against accused priests before 2002, when it changed the way it handles reports of child sex abuse.
In 2002, bishops established the “Dallas Charter,” a document which set guidelines for all dioceses in the United States. The guidelines included mandated criminal background checks, training and a code of conduct for employees.
Prior to the charter, 24 priests and one deacon had been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors since the founding of the Peterson diocese in 1937. Since the charter in 2002, three priests from the Paterson diocese have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.
The parishes where accused priests and deacons served in Sussex County are; Our Lady of the Lake in Sparta, St. Thomas in Ogdensburg, Immaculate Conception in Franklin, Our Lady of Fatima in Highland Lakes, Our Lady Star of the Sea in Lake Hopatcong, Pope John High School in Sparta, St. Monica in Sussex, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Swartswood, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Branchville, and Blessed Kateri in Sparta.
The current bishop of the Diocese of Paterson has not been without his own problems concerning priests and scandal. The Diocese of Paterson has been the subject of at least one lawsuit and media reports concerning an alleged homosexual network of priests and seminarians reminiscent of Cardinal McCarrick’s web during his episcopal tenure.
According to the American Spectator, “A wispy protégé of McCarrick’s, Serratelli is known for, among other acts of astonishing corruption, making Fr. Hernan Arias, a credibly accused gay predator, his vocations director. Arias no longer holds that post, but he remains pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland despite the fact that he is under Vatican investigation for an allegation of sexual assault against a college student who was thinking about becoming a priest. Serratelli knew about this charge before he made Arias vocations director, according to a source close to the Paterson chancery.
Arias is so close to Serratelli that people in the know in the diocese refer to him as “Mrs. Serratelli” or the “First Lady,” said this source. “Serratelli, Arias, and Edgar Rivera (the current vocations director) go on vacation every year together to the Dominican Republic,” added this source.
If any of these allegations are true, Serratelli is incapable of reforming the Diocese of Paterson. He himself is compromised, if the allegations are true, and thus captive to sexual predators among his clergy. This is how the sexual abuse of children thrives-in secrecy, aided and abetted by complicit and/or compromised clergy, and hidden from law enforcement.