Man wants priest defrocked, claiming sex abuse in Little Egg Harbor Township

Press of Atlantic City/September 16, 2008

Little Egg Harbor Township - After spending a year in anonymity, the 37-year-old Bass River Township man who accused a popular St. Theresa's Parish priest of sexual abuse last year went public Monday to call on the Diocese of Trenton to defrock his alleged abuser.

Chris Naples, surrounded by family and friends at the entrance to St. Theresa's Parish on Radio Road, recounted how he met the Rev. Terence O. McAlinden in the spring of 1985 while at a weekend retreat at the Jeremiah Retreat House in Keyport, Monmouth County.

Naples said McAlinden started sexually abusing him soon afterward aboard his boat, the "Poorbox," and continued the abuse for more than a decade.

"Keeping this secret almost killed me," said Naples, adding that he gathered his family and friends last year and told them all of his secret at the same time.

"I was devastated and horrified," his wife, Patty, said.

McAlinden introduced the couple, married them and baptized their two children.

"I was another layer of the abuse," she said of the role McAlinden played in the couple's relationship.

The Rev. Robert M. Hoatson, founder and president of Road To Recovery Inc. - a Livingston-based group that was started by members of the clergy to help the survivors of clergy abuse - said at the news conference it is common for clergy members who are guilty of abusing children to stay in close contact with their victims throughout their lives.

Naples' father, Tony, cried while explaining what it's like for a father to learn his son was sexually abused.

"I support my son 100 percent," he said. "(McAlinden's) got to be defrocked."

After the Diocese of Trenton determined Naples' accusations to be "credible," Bishop John Smith removed McAlinden in September 2007 from his position as pastor of St. Theresa's Parish and placed him on administrative leave until the case could be formally reviewed by the Vatican.

Until then, McAlinden cannot celebrate Mass publicly, administer other sacraments, exercise his priestly ministry, wear clerical garb or present himself as a priest.

If defrocked by the Vatican, those restrictions would be permanent.

Naples said he has not heard from Smith in about a year, but he said: "I call on Bishop Smith to take better control of this dangerous priest and predator, and I ask him to contact the Vatican to defrock McAlinden as soon as possible. It is time the people of Little Egg Harbor Township and nearby towns demand that Terence McAlinden leave the area so children can be safer than they are now."

Rayanne Bennett, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Trenton, said the diocese has acted appropriately, swiftly and responsibly in regards to this case.

"The diocese has taken the allegations against Father Terence O. McAlinden very seriously and acted in accordance with its established Sexual Abuse Policy and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," Bennett wrote in an e-mail.

Bennett said the diocese has offered Naples counseling through its Victims Assistance team and hired an investigator to look into possible other victims.

No additional victims have come forward, Bennett said, but the investigation is ongoing.

"Vatican authorities have acknowledged receiving this case, but the diocese has not received any notification as to the case's disposition," said Bennett, adding the diocese must wait to hear from the Vatican before any further action against McAlinden can be taken.

Bennett also said Bishop Smith and the Diocese of Trenton have no control over Father McAlinden's daily activities or where he lives.

"The residence in question is property he owns privately; his actions are not sanctioned by the diocese or the parish," she said. "In removing Father McAlinden's priestly faculties, the diocese has taken every precautionary step it has available. We remain in contact with the civil authorities to apprise them of Father McAlinden's whereabouts."

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office investigated the case, but the alleged events occurred so long ago, the statute of limitations expired and the office's Sex Crimes Unit was unable to prosecute the case.

However, Hoatson said, when a victim such as Naples comes forward, it typically encourages other victims to follow suit.

"We know of at least one other victim of McAlinden (also an adult male) who is choosing to remain anonymous at this point," Hoatson said, which is why he is unknown to the diocese. "Now we expect that more victims of McAlinden will come forward and possibly in record numbers."

Hoatson said his prediction of record numbers was because McAlinden had access to thousands of children as a priest.

While Naples' identity was kept secret from those outside the parish, many parishioners knew he was the accuser.

"I am still a member of this community and our children still attend CCD here," Patty Naples said. "Many people have been wonderful and supportive, but there are people in this parish who are willing to protect (McAlinden)."

It was that group of people that made in difficult for Naples to return to the church, he said.

"It was intimidating coming back," Naples said.

Naples chose his 37th birthday to come forward to tell his story of abuse, which he said was part of his healing process.

"It was time," he said. "It's a new year. It's a new life."

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