Former priest advocates for clerical abuse victims

WEST ORANGE, NJ — It has been a slow, painful process, unraveling years of secrecy, guilt and shame.

But for the past few weeks, since a Pennsylvania grand jury unveiled an explosive report of sexual abuse by priests in that state, dioceses across the country have been releasing names of credibly accused clergy members.

More than 75 dioceses so far, according to one law firm representing victims nationwide, have hundreds of clergy members named. Many have died.

Other dioceses have said they, too, would release names. The Archbishop of Newark in New Jersey recently announced it would release its list by early next year.

Robert Hoatson of Road to Recovery was a priest, and now an advocate for abused victims.

“I think victims are out there just waiting to tell their stories, but they want to tell their stories to someone who is going to believe them. And the church has had a very very difficult history of blowing off victims, of not believing them, of treating them with kind of disdain and disbelief.”

At least one of the victims he knows who has been waiting for justice, Hoatson told BA, is Filipino. At least two Filipino clergy members who served in New Jersey have been identified as abusers and were never held accountable.

“I can’t remember anybody who called me whom i disbelieved because number one who is going to make this stuff up and number two there are much easier ways to get financial settlements than to accuse a church of sexual abuse by a priest.”

What the victims are really asking for, he said, is justice. The new task force set up by the New Jersey Attorney General recently, similar to what other states have done, Hoatson said, is bringing some hope.

But prosecuting sex assault abusers of minors in New Jersey would be challenging because of the statute of limitations.

“That’s why we want the law to change in the states to give folks their day in court. They still have to prove their cases but at least they can bring their abusers to court.”

There had been a few cases when clergy members were convicted of the abuse.

Romannilo Apura, a former priest in Point Pleasant is serving his three year sentence at an adult treatment center in avenel, after admitting to sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 2014.

Meanwhile, the attorney general has set up a toll free 24/7 hotline. If you have been a victim of sexual abuse by the clergy, you can call 855-363-6548.

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