6 Priests Named in Abuse Claims Are Removed From Duties

April 8, 2002

By THOMAS J. LUECK

New York Times

The Archdiocese of New York said last night that six
priests who had been named in allegations of sexual
misconduct have been "asked to leave their current
assignments" and "are not to represent themselves as
priests."

The announcement by the archdiocese came four days after
its spokesman, Joseph G. Zwilling, said that church
officials had turned over to the Manhattan district
attorney a list of all its priests who had been accused of
sexual abuse of minors in the past.

Church officials did not publicly identify the six priests
who it said had been instructed to leave their current
assignments, nor say where they were working in the
archdiocese, which includes Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten
Island and seven counties north of New York City.

It was unclear yesterday whether the six priests included
one in Westchester County, who was reported yesterday to
have been replaced. According to The Journal News,
parishioners at Holy Name of Mary Church in
Croton-on-Hudson were informed Saturday night that the
priest, the Rev. Kenneth Jesselli, was being removed
because of "an allegation of inappropriate behavior from
his past."

Mr. Zwilling said that all six priests had been included on
a list turned over to the district attorney, Robert M.
Morgenthau, on Tuesday. A law enforcement official said on
Wednesday that the list included about three dozen priests,
many of whom have left the priesthood.

"The Archdiocese of New York today announced that six
priests have been asked to leave their current archdiocesan
assignments due to an allegation of sexual misconduct from
their past," said a statement Mr. Zwilling sent to
reporters yesterday by e-mail.

"Information concerning these priests was included in the
information forwarded earlier this week" to Mr. Morgenthau,
the statement said. It did not indicate what, if any, new
assignments the six priests had received within the church.


"The priests in question have been informed that they are
not to present themselves as priests or exercise their
priestly ministry publicly at least until the matter is
further clarified or resolved," the statement said. The
archdiocesan sanction means that the priests cannot say
public Mass or preside at weddings, confirmations or other
church ceremonies.

Mr. Zwilling said some, but not all, of the six priests
were being removed from parish assignments. Others, he
said, were working in administrative positions or other
jobs outside the parishes.

He would not comment on the nature of the allegations. He
also would not say when or where the misconduct was alleged
to have taken place.

Parishioners who had been served by the affected priests
were told yesterday that clergy members at their parishes
would change, Mr. Zwilling said. Priests were assigned to
replace the clergymen that were removed, and sent
introductory letters to their new parishes yesterday.

"We wanted people in the parishes to be informed of this
before they read about it in the newspaper," he said. Mr.
Zwilling said he did not know if criminal charges were
planned against any of the six.

"That is entirely in the hands of the district attorney,"
Mr. Zwilling said. Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for Mr.
Morgenthau, declined comment last night. "We will conduct
our own review," she said.

In Croton-on-Hudson, parishioners at Holy Name of Mary
Church received word of Father Jesselli's removal in a
letter, a copy of which The Journal News said it had
obtained.

"We are sorry that this action is necessary, and pray that
this will not cause you and the parish further pain," The
Journal News quoted the letter as saying.

But the disruption in its clergy came to a parish already
reeling from allegations of sexual misconduct by another
priest.

Father Jesselli replaced the Rev. Gennaro Gentile, who had
been charged in the 1990's with improperly touching boys.
Father Gentile, named in a lawsuit by one family, left the
parish in 2000 and has since been working in an
administrative post, dealing with marriage annulments.

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