Surrounded by a host of family and friends, three New Jersey men held a news conference Monday outside St. Theresa's on Radio Road in Little Egg Harbor, denouncing a priest they say sexually abused them beginning in 1980.
Many of the supporters held signs that read things like, "Defrock McAlinden," "It's All Coming Out," "Children Must Have a Voice," "I Am A Survivor of Clergy Sexual Abuse and "Protect Your Children," according to the Asbury Park Press.
The men, Chris Naples, of Bass River, Patrick Newcombe a former Point Pleasant resident and Bob Markulic of White Township organized the conference at St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church in Little Egg Harbor, where the priest was removed in 2007 after allegations surfaced.
Abuse Accountability, a sex abuse allegation tracking web site, reported that Father Terence O. McAlinden, also known as "Father Mac," was dismissed from his clerical state at St. Theresa after the 2007 allegations.
Newcombe, 43, and Markulic, 56, met for the first time at the news conference. The alleged victims of Father Mac said they first learned of one another after reading about Naples' sexual abuse claims via the Internet.
Naples, of Bass River, was the first to accuse Father Mac back in 2008. The 39-year-old, who grew up in Brick, claimed McAlinden abused him off and on for 10 years beginning in 1985. He has filed a lawsuit against McAlinden.
Newcombe says the Diocese of Trenton knew that Father Mac abused him in 1989 and instead of reporting his behavior to law enforcement, they offered him money to remain silent and Newcombe signed a confidentiality agreement with the diocese.
Bob Markulic, of White Township, says Father Mac victimized him in the rectory of Our Lady of Victory in Sayreville. He was a 14-year-old alter boy at the time of the alleged sexual assault, according to the Trentonian.
The men said they have joined forces with Rev. Robert Hoatson, a priest who runs Road to Recovery, an advocacy program for victims of priest sex abuse, to ask other victims to come forward.
"I am pleading with other victims to come forward," Newcombe said. "He (McAlinden) could still be raping today," The Point Pleasant Patch reported.
The Diocese of Trenton released a statement Monday saying that while Father McAlinden is technically still listed as a priest, he is prohibited from being on church grounds. The Diocese added that an investigation into McAlinden is ongoing and may result in his removal from priesthood.
The statement read: "Since receiving a complaint in 2007 that Father Terence O. McAlinden had sexually abused a minor in the late 1980s, the Diocese of Trenton has vigorously and responsibly enforced its policies governing such cases ---- removing Father McAlinden from ministry; lending our full support and cooperation to law enforcement agencies investigating the allegations; offering counseling to the victim, and appealing to any other victims to come forward.
The Trenton Diocese has sought instruction from the Holy See for possible canonical action, which could include an ecclesiastical trial and permanent removal from the clerical state."
In addition to apologizing to the community, the Diocese has assured the parish that they were not aware of any "other abuse allegation on record involving Father McAlinden prior to 2007," and that any new allegations involving McAlinden would be immediately referred to "civil authorities" and the diocesan review board.
"We further extend our offer of assistance to these victims in their efforts to seek counseling," the statement says. "And we re-issue our appeal for anyone who has been abused by Father McAlinden to come forward and receive help.
When a priest is relieved of his priestly faculties, he is forbidden from publicly celebrating mass, donning clerical garb or presenting himself as a priest. The diocese will only dismiss a Priest from his clerical state for certain grave offenses, such as a serious criminal conviction. A priest may voluntarily request laicizing for personal reasons, policies, or doctrine he is in conflict with.
Despite a priest's castigation, an "indelible priestly character remains upon his soul, as is sung at a priest's ordination, you are a priest forever, like Melchizedek of old."
In short, when a priest is ordained he receives the Sacrament of the Holy Orders. Since the Sacrament of Holy Orders cannot be reversed, a priest can never actually be defrocked. The Diocese can forbid him to publicly celebrate Mass and wear his priestly robe, but should the priest encounter someone in danger of dying, he is allowed to administer the Sacraments.
If a defrocked priest disobeys the diocese order, any Sacraments he has performed, while illicit, are considered valid. The Priest will have to answer to God for his disobedience. Neither the Church nor the Diocese can remove or undo the Sacrament of the Holy Orders.