Jersey City priest leaves parish after new 1980s sex abuse allegation

Jersey City priest leaves parish after new 1980s sex abuse allegation
Ex-Ridgefield Park Priest Takes Leave After Onetime Altar Boy Describes Sex Abuse
An investigation by the Archdiocese of Newark was continuing into the allegations against the Rev. Gerald Sudol at St. Francis of Assisi Church following an online column by village native Ed Hanratty that went viral, a spokesman for the diocese said.

Sudol took a leave of absence as reverend in residence at Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church in Jersey City while the investigation proceeds, said the spokesman, Jim Goodness.

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Another local priest — the Rev. Jim Weiner, pastor of St. Andrews Church in Westwood — also has taken a leave amid allegations of sexual misconduct, Goodness confirmed.

Sudol — who was at St. Francis from 1986 to 1994 and also spent some time at Bergen Catholic High School – had previously been accused of sexual abuse 14 years ago. The archdiocese settled out of court and reassigned him to a hospice, records show.

An archdiocesan trial board later cleared Sudol of any wrongdoing amid the Catholic Churchs sex-abuse scandal of the early 2000s.

The seeds of his removal were sown earlier this month, with the column by Hanratty and a subsequent Daily Voice interview with the former altar boy.

It was the summer before 8th grade when Sudol sexually abused him in the family pool, Hanratty said.

Before then, the Ridgefield Park native said, Sudol kissed him and other boys on the mouth — but instead of telling their parents, the boys made jokes about his sexuality.

None of us ever thought to complain to anyone. Not our parents. Not our teachers….Nobody, Hanratty, 41, previously wrote in a column.

On Wednesday night wed be making jokes about him loving men (because we considered ourselves men, not boys) and on Thursday morning hed be kissing us on the lips after the 7:00 mass, he added.

Then came the day that Hanratty said he found himself alone with “Father Gerry” in the family swimming pool during one of several times the priest came to dinner.

He kept quiet for more than 30 years, other than to confide in a chosen few amid the 2002 Catholic sex abuse scandal.

This summer things changed, Hanratty said. The news that Father Gerrys superior – Archbishop Theodore McCarrick — was himself accused of sexually abusing children sent me into a tailspin. I had a mini breakdown on Facebook about it one Sunday as I sat on a bar stool inhaling IPAs like they were oxygen. I knew it wasnt healthy, I knew I had to speak up.

If you asked me a week ago, I would probably give you half-truths, insinuations and vague hints, he wrote to Daily Voice in a private-message interview. But its all out in the open now.

What broke was a grand jury report revealing that more than 1,000 children had been abused by 300 Catholic “predator priests” and bishops in six Pennsylvania dioceses since the 1940s.

Church leaders covered up the crimes, abruptly shifting priests to other parishes or allowing them to resign or retire, the grand jury report issued last week said.

To Hanratty, the numbers of abused youngsters cited in the grand jury report popped off of computer screens across the globe like sparks hitting the unprotected eye of a steelworker.

ALSO SEE: The Rev. Jim Weiner of St. Andrews Church in Westwood hosted cocktail parties attended by known homosexual priests from the Archiocese of Newark, several priests claim in a published report.

A priest has stepped away from his Jersey City parish while the Newark archdiocese investigates a new allegation of decades-old abuse, a spokesman for the archdiocese said.

The Rev. Gerard Sudol, who faced similar accusations 15 years ago that were a part of a million-dollar settlement — was a priest “in residence” at Our Lady of Czestochowa Downtown. He had been at the church since July 2015. 

A woman who answered the phone at OLC referred all questions to the archdiocese. Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness made the distinction that Sudol was in residence at OLC and not assigned there as a parochial vicar.

He was accused of sexual misconduct last week by Ed Hanratty, who was a student at St. Francis of Assisi School in Ridgefield Park in the late 1980s when Sudol was a priest there.

Goodness said that Sudol has “stepped aside voluntarily while we undertake a review of earlier allegations, based on some possible new information. He has taken this action for the benefit of the parish, for the Church, and for himself.”

In an article on the Daily Voice website and a first-person blog post, Hanratty, 41 and now living in West Milford, said the abuse occurred between 1987 and 1989. It entailed kissing the young Hanratty with an open mouth; and on one occasion, rubbing up against Hanratty in the Hanratty familys pool.

Sudol, who served at St. Francis of Assisi from 1986 to 1994 and as a hospital chaplain at St. Francis Community Health Center in Jersey City from 1995 to 2002, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Sudol was one of nine priests whose accusers settled with the Newark archdiocese for $1.07 million in 2004, the Newark Star-Ledger reported at the time.

Hanratty said he came forward publicly now — he says he previously confided in close friends and his wife — after news that the Catholic church in Pennsylvania covered up years of sex abuse by priests there.

The Our Lady of Czestochowa parish includes a grammar school, and Hanratty is appalled that Sudol was placed there.

“I am beyond shocked that this man was assigned to a parish with a school attached,” Hanratty said. “I have my own opinions on where he belongs, but couldnt you find some assignment for him that didnt put him in such a close proximity of children, knowing what you obviously knew?”

OLC school Principal Anna Mae Stefanelli declined to comment, referring all questions regarding Sudol to Goodness.

Sudol previously was accused of sexual abuse, stemming  from his time at St. Francis, and he was removed from ministering. 

After the archdiocese settlement, Sudol was acquitted in a canonical trial in 2005 and he was assigned to work at a hospice, records show. Goodness said on Wednesday that between 2005 and 2015 Sudol assisted in different parishes and was never assigned as a parochial vicar.

Goodness, the archdiocese spokesman, last week said Sudol has no interaction with the students at OLC because he “wouldnt have any reason to.” On Wednesday, Goodness reiterated that Sudol “had no relationship with the school.”

Posted in Jersey City