Former Rockland pastor accused of child sex abuse

Rockland Westchester Journal, New York/October 15, 2019

By Matt Spillane

A Catholic priest who spent years as a pastor and vicar in Rockland County is now facing an allegation of child abuse from decades ago.

Monsignor Edward Weber was one of four priests in the Archdiocese of New York to be placed on administrative leave following such an accusation, according to Catholic New York, a newspaper run by the archdiocese.

Weber has served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in West Nyack since 1994 and as regional vicar of Rockland County since 2002. He will leave those positions. Before that, he served as parochial vicar at St. Margaret of Cortona, the Bronx; and St. Margaret Mary and St. Sylvester’s, both on Staten Island. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1976 and named a monsignor in 2006.

He recently served as a weekend associate at St. Gregory Barbarigo Church in Garnerville.

Weber is the director of priest personnel for the archdiocese.

Three current pastors in Westchester were also put on administrative leave this month because of decades-old abuse claims: Monsignor Edward Barry of Holy Rosary in Hawthorne, Rev. William Luciano of Blessed Sacrament in New Rochelle, and Monsignor James White of St. Vito-Most Holy Trinity in Mamaroneck.

The accusation against Weber stems from his time at St. Sylvester Church on Staten Island. According to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan in August, a Florida man named Arne Haughwout accused Weber of sexually abusing him at least 150 times while Haughwout was between the ages of 11 and 16, from 1978 to 1983.

Haughwout filed the lawsuit as the Child Victims Act went into effect in August, opening a one-year window for people to take legal action in sexual abuse cases, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Weber has often been the face of the archdiocese when dealing with sexual abuse.

When a deacon was removed from Holy Name of Mary Church in Croton-on-Hudson in 2013 because of abuse allegations, Weber appeared at Sunday Masses to explain what had transpired. When John O’Keefe, the former pastor of St. Margaret of Antioch Church in Pearl River, was removed from ministry in December 2015, Weber represented the archdiocese at several weekend Masses.

Last year, it was widely reported that a Catholic college in Escondido, California, John Paul the Great University, was outraged that Weber had vouched for a New York priest even though the archdiocese had reopened an investigation into allegations against the priest.

In 2004, as the Catholic church's sex abuse scandal was coming to light, Weber, then the Rockland County vicar, spoke about the problem of clergy abuse.

"I would hate to compare dioceses, because if one child is damaged, it is a tragedy," he said at the time. "But 1.1% of the clergy means we are no different than other religions, or other areas outside religion, when it comes to this problem. I'm not trying to make excuses, and we are making real efforts to protect children and reach out with compassion."

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