Former Hudson priest facing criminal probe in sex abuse case, victims group says

New Jersey Advance Media/July 20, 2016

By Steve Strunsk

Guttenberg -- A Catholic priest is under criminal investigation by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office following allegations he sexually abused a young parishioner at a Guttenberg church where the priest worked in the 1990's, a victims rights group said.

The Rev. Michael "Mitch" Walters had been accused by the parishioner at the St. John Nepomucene Parish in Guttenberg of molesting him two decades ago, Road to Recovery, a Livingston-based group that advocates for victims of clergy abuse, announced on Wednesday.

"Fr. Michael "Mitch" Walters was stationed in the 1990s at St. John Nepomucene Parish in Guttenberg, New Jersey, in Hudson County, and a man has come forward to allege that he was sexually abused by Fr. Michael "Mitch" Walters at St. John Nepomucene Parish when he was a minor child," the Road to Recovery stated in an announcement in advance of a press conference it had scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Guttenberg church on Polk Street.

Ray Worrall, a spokesman for Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, declined to confirm whether the office was investigating the allegations.

"We can't comment whether or not this office is even involved in an investigation," Worrall said in an email.
The assertion by the Guttenberg parishioners are in addition to allegations by five parishioners at St. Cassian's Parish in Montclair that Walters abused them when he worked there decades ago.

Walters was removed from the ministry in October after the allegations were made last year, when he was working as a weekend pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange while also serving in two positions at the Archdiocese of Newark, overseeing educational and spiritual enrichment programs for parishioners, and fundraising for missionary and evangelical work.

A spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese, Jim Goodness, said Wednesday that church officials had informed county prosecutors of the allegations against Walters, after the archdiocese was contacted by a lawyer for several people alleging they had been abused by the priest in Guttenberg and Montclair.

"We brought the information directly to them," Goodness said, referring to prosecutors. "We are ready to cooperate to any extent possible."

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