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Sex Abuse, Negligence Lawsuit Filed Against Catholic Church In New Jersey

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According to allegations raised in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed last week against the Catholic Church in New Jersey, the archdiocese there placed a priest in charge of a youth ministry, despite knowledge that he had been credibly accused of molesting children years earlier.

The complaint was filed against the Archdiocese of Newark by Richard Roe, a pseudonym. According to a report by WGNTV.com, the lawsuit accuses the church of negligence, saying that it failed to heed warnings about Rev. Kevin Gugliotta, who allegedly abused Roe in 2004.

Gugliotta pled guilty to distributing child pornography in 2017, and received a two-year sentence and was defrocked as a result. However, Roe, 26, says the church was warned about Gugliotta as early as 2003, and continued to place him in charge of a youth ministry.

Another man, identified in the lawsuit only as Mr. X, warned the church in 2003 that Gugliotta sexually abused children as a Boy Scout leader in the 1980s. The case was sent to the Vatican for review and he was briefly removed from the ministry. However, the church determined it could take no action because the allegations occurred before Gugilotta became a priest, and they reinstated him and placed him in a position of authority and proximity to minors.

According to Roe, a year later, in 2004, he became Gugliotta’s next victim. The lawsuit names the Archdiocese of Newark, former Archbishop John H. Myers, and St. Bartholomew of the Apostle Parish in Scotch Plains, as defendants.

The case comes amid heightened attention to Catholic Church sex abuse scandals, as dioceses nationwide have been releasing lists of priests facing what the church considers credible accusations of sexual assault against minors and vulnerable adults. The lists began to come out several months after an August 2018 grand jury report highlighted cases involving at least 90 Catholic priests accused of sex abuse in the Pittsburgh area, involving allegations and cover-ups that spanned decades.

That report indicated that the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania covered up abuse involving priests who abused more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the course of 70 years. After 90 of those priests were identified, it sparked investigations by the Justice Department and states’ attorneys general nationwide.

In February, New Jersey dioceses released lists naming 188 priests who served in the state. All of the priests were, at some point, charged with “credible” claims of sex abuse against children or vulnerable adults.

Late last month, the Vatican held a four-day conference on addressing problems of sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, but critics complain that the conference did not result in any concrete action.

The spotlight on the issue has renewed some efforts to level sex abuse litigation against the Church. In January, an attorney representing a number of victims announced that the Catholic Church had agreed to settle at least five sexual abuse lawsuits brought against a former priest in New Jersey.

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