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Priest removed for lewd texting; bishop faces criticism

Catholic World News - September 30, 2013

Bishop David O’Connell of Trenton is facing criticism for his reaction to lewd text messages sent by Father Matthew Riedlinger, a priest ordained in 2010, according to newspaper and wire service reports.

In 2011, two student altar servers at Catholic University of America sent Bishop O’Connell transcripts of their Facebook chats with Riedlinger. The priest was assigned outpatient counseling but continued to minister at his parish.

The university students then created a fictitious Facebook profile of a 16-year-old boy. Transcripts of the conversations with the fictitious boy led Bishop O’Connell to remove Riedlinger from his parish in 2012 and refer the matter to the Ocean County District Attorney’s Office, which could not prosecute because of jurisdictional issues, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Though Riedlinger was removed from his parish, he was allowed to minister publicly earlier this month at a priest’s funeral Mass.

Riedlinger’s parish was not informed of the reason for the removal for over a year, when the newspaper prepared to write a story on the priest.

“I hear your request for the bishop to share information with the parish; however, as I mentioned to you in October, it was bishop’s decision not to do so,” said the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator, Maureen Fitzsimmons, in a July 2013 e-mail to one of the university students.

Diocesan spokeswoman Rayanne Bennett said that the case did not fall under the US bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People because a minor was not involved.

“The bishops promised to be open and transparent about anything of this nature,” said Mark Crawford, the New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “This is an example of them not being open and honest at all.”

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Billkrebaum6091 - Oct. 01, 2013 3:38 PM ET USA

    How unfortunate that this priest has shown an apparent inability to control his online behavior. But, from the story, it appears that there was no criminal conduct and the priest's inappropriate online conduct was with adults. So it seems there is also a danger in over sensationalizing these events. Not clear from this article that the Bishop failed to act properly.

  • Posted by: jlw5096959 - Sep. 30, 2013 11:14 PM ET USA

    Maddening.It's serious pastoral malpractice on the part of the Bishop. Almost worse than what that sick, depraved priest was doing: because the priest is clearly addicted to this foul perversion (God knows everything: He will judge), but the bishop? What's his excuse? Does he have an OCD as well? God help me, my wrath rises on incidents like this. God bless the young men who nailed this guy. I hope they will reclaim their vocations and be ordained by a bishop worthy of the name. Of the Name.

  • Posted by: unum - Sep. 30, 2013 6:47 PM ET USA

    Perhaps the Holy Father and the eight cardinals can find the time to review Bishop O’Connell's handling of this matter years after the U.S. Church pledged to be open with victims and the public about abuse. The USCCB's PR campaign, I mean "reforms", are not working!

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Sep. 30, 2013 10:45 AM ET USA

    Jg, you are right on. Are these guys really this naive? There is no faster way to get into trouble than to bungle a sex abuse case. Didn't take this guy long to mess it up.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Sep. 30, 2013 8:55 AM ET USA

    This also highlights one of the ongoing problems with the bishops' Charter: It posits a false problem. The source of the scandals that first surfaced in Boston was never pedophilia; it was the overwhelming homosexual nature of advances made by priests on adolescents in their charge, and the subsequent regular cover up of these activities by bishops. There was some pedophilia, to be sure, but that was never the focus of the crisis, despite efforts by homosexual activists to say it was.

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