The Diocese of Trenton, which covers the southern portion of New Jersey, was established in 1881. There have been ten bishops who’ve served the Diocese of Trenton, including its current bishop David M. O’Connell, the former president of the Catholic University of America.
The Catholic Diocese of Trenton has named 30 former clergymen who stand credibly accused of sexual abuse against children.
All 30 men are either dead or have been removed from their ministries. The diocese did not specify whether the men were priests or deacons, where they worked when active, what sort of accusations they faced or from how many victims.
The accused include a former assistant superintendent of diocese’s schools, a youth group coordinator and a priest who coordinated a council teaching human sexuality to children.
In releasing the list, Bishop O’Connell termed the list “preliminary” which indicates there are most likely more priests who’ve been accused than have been reported.
Patrick Francis Magee, who was the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Bay Head, had been arrested in Ireland in 2004 on charges of sexually abusing a child there more than 30 years ago.
The charges stemmed from when Magee was a seminary student, studying to become a priest in Ireland. He was charged with “committing an act of gross indecency on or towards a child on a date unknown between Jan. 1, 1965, and Dec. 31, 1969, in the Armagh and South Down area” of Northern Ireland, and with indecently assaulting a child during that same period, according to reports at the time. He has since been removed from the ministry.
Richard Milewski, 72, was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s, when the clergyman was assigned to St. Veronica’s Church in Howell. The lawsuit charged that Milewski abused an unnamed Virginia man between 1984 and 1985, when the man was 13 years old and a student and altar boy at St. Veronica’s.
Brendan Williams was on the Trenton list but no additional information was provided.
Rev. Robert J. Parenti, 80, was removed from the ministry in December 1998 while church officials investigated allegations of ”sexual misconduct” with a minor 25 years earlier, according to archives in the Asbury Park Press. Parenti was a priest at the St. Denis Church in Manasquan and once served St. Veronica’s Catholic Church in Howell.
In a lawsuit filed in Burlington County, four young women — including one minor — alleged they were sexually assaulted by the Rev. Florencia Peneda Tumang of St. Mary of the Lakes Church in Mount Holly in the 1980s and 1990s. One said the assaults took place in 1987 or 1988; two said it took place in 1990, and the fourth alleges Tumang assaulted her in 1992 when she was 14.
The Rev. Romannilo S. Apura was known as “Father Nilo” to parishioners at St. Martha R.C. Church in Point Pleasant, where he was named pastor in 2012. But in 2014, Apura, now 71, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy in Trenton, where he previously served as a priest in two different parishes — St. Joachim and St. Mary of the Assumption. Apura was accused of molesting the teenage boy at a home in Trenton twice in late spring and early summer of 2014, authorities in Mercer County said. He subsequently pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual contact, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison on Nov. 20, 2015. Apura was released from the state Corrections Department’s Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center on Nov. 30, 2017.
Joseph Prioli, a former teacher at Christian Brothers Academy who lived in Howell, was arrested in January 2017 on charges that he sexually assaulted a relative for years beginning in 2007. He was also a deacon at a parish in the diocese. Prioli was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2017 after pleading guilty to second-degree sexual conduct with a child by a caretaker. The victim addressed Prioli at his sentencing telling the court “He invaded my privacy, my bed, my body,” according to Press archives.
Before he was sentenced, Prioli expressed remorse to the judge saying, “My regret is deep and true. I am, in fact, horrified by my own actions.” He remains incarcerated.
The Rev. Ronald R. Becker was accused in 2007 of fondling a female family member when she was between the ages of 3 and 7 years old at a home in Jamesburg. The victim, who was 26 years old at the time she came forward, said the abuse occurred in the 1980s. Becker died before he could face trial in the case. He was also accused of sexually abusing five altar boys at the Incarnation Parish in Ewing in the 1970s and 1980s. The Diocese of Trenton paid the victims a total of $1 million in 2011 to settle their claims, according to Press archives. One victim told a reporter, “What I went through destroyed my faith.”
The church said at the time of Becker’s arrest that he hadn’t been given a parish assignment since 1989. Press archives list a Rev. Ronald R. Becker as pastor of the Precious Blood Parish in Monmouth Beach in 1986.
Monsignor Richard C. Brietske was a prominent figure within in the diocese. Upon his retirement in 2012, the Trenton Monitor, the newspaper run by the diocese, wrote an article lauding his “exciting and fulfilling” career as priest. He was ordained in 1973 and became the founding principal of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Edison. At the same time, he served as chaplain of Monmouth College, now Monmouth University, in West Long Branch. Later in his career, he was the pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Fair Haven and St. Gregory the Great in Hamilton Square. Brietske, who was later named monsignor, was tasked with coordinating the diocese celebration of the new millennium in 2000 and was the head of the diocesan building commission. He served as a weekend assistant at the Church of St. Catherine in Holmdel until 2007, according The Monitor. Information about the accusations against Brietske was not available in the public record. He has never been convicted of a felony or been the party of a lawsuit in New Jersey, records show. The Diocese of Trenton has said only that Brietske was the subject of one allegation of abuse and was removed from ministry as a result.
The Brietske case is typical of how the Diocese of Trenton has not showed any transparency in publishing its list of priest abusers. It gives no information about the majority of the priests listed unless that information is already public through criminal records. The lack of transparency and the fact that the list is a result of self-reporting shows the Diocese of Trenton’s lack of commitment to heal survivors and stop the sexual abuse of children.