Local priest tied to
By CHAD WEIHRAUCH, NJ
Home News Tribune Online, July 12, 2005
Metuchen, NJ -- The pastor at
a Roman Catholic church in North Plainfield has been removed after an accusation
he sexually abused a minor nearly two decades ago while serving at a parish in
No criminal charges have been filed against the Rev. John Casey, 47, who has
been at St. Joseph R. C. Church in North Plainfield since 1991. The
allegation arose from a period 18 years ago, when Casey worked as the parochial
vicar at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in New Brunswick.
According to the Diocese of Metuchen, authorities recently investigated the
sex-abuse claim against Casey but concluded the statute of limitations had run
out, meaning no criminal case could proceed.
Still, the church indicated a probe had found there may be some substance to the
accusation, leading to his removal.
Casey is the 19th priest to be involved in a sexual-abuse allegation since the
diocese was established in 1981.
Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski sent a letter that was read to parishioners beginning
during Saturday night's Mass. In it, he told church members at St. Joseph
an internal investigation had found the allegations "are not without merit."
The diocese did not detail the exact nature of the sex-abuse charge or the age
of the alleged victim, but emphasized it apparently was a one-time incident.
"It wasn't anything prolonged or over a period of years or whatever," diocese
spokeswoman Joanne Ward said yesterday.
The letter from Bootkoski, dated July 9, read in part:
"Unfortunately, I must tell you today that Father Casey has been accused of
sexually abusing a minor some 18 years ago, when he was assigned as the
parochial vicar of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in New Brunswick. Father
Casey has denied the allegation."
The case was reported to authorities, the church said, but under state law, the
time limit to file charges had run out.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office did not return several calls yesterday
seeking information on the guidelines that govern such cases.
Bootkoski's letter continued:
"The Diocese recently completed a preliminary investigation of these charges in
accordance with canon law. It was the conclusion of the professional
investigator and the Diocesan Review Board, and it is my own conclusion, that
the charges are not without merit."
The diocese noted that Casey has not been convicted of any crime, but it is
obligated under church law to, firstly, send the case to Vatican City for review
by Catholic officials and, secondly, to remove him, pending a final
determination on his case.
A priest who had worked at St. Joseph on the weekend, the Rev. Ed Edwards, has
been named temporary administrator of the North Plainfield parish.
Standing outside the rectory talking to congregants yesterday, Edwards said he
had no comment on the case.
No charges have been filed against Casey.
Most of the two dozen or so parishioners who filtered out of the golden-gilt
front doors of St. Joseph after the daily 12:10 p.m. Mass yesterday declined
comment. One said congregants had been asked by the church to keep
conversations with reporters brief.
However, Clifford Jackson, 50, of Plainfield, who has attended the church for
about three years, said he could not believe any charges had been leveled
against Casey. He said he knew the pastor from cookouts and other church
gatherings, and added his granddaughter will be attending St. Joseph's private
elementary school next year.
"He was a good guy, a decent guy," he said. "Shocked — that's the word, that's
Others made reference to the continuing scandal in the Catholic Church,
wondering how parishioners and the clergy will rebound from another incident.
Ward, the diocese spokeswoman, said Casey has been assigned to a number of
churches over the years, including St. Philip and St. James Church in
Phillipsburg, St. Peter in New Brunswick, the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi
in Metuchen and St. Joseph in North Plainfield.
Both St. Joseph and St. Peter have private schools with hundreds of young
According to the Web site Private School Review, St. Peter has two schools, a
K-eight elementary and a grade nine-12 high school, which have a combined
enrollment of nearly 400. In North Plainfield, St. Joseph also has a
private school, with nearly 200 K-eight pupils.