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Spotlight Report

N.J. priest says he was fired over criticism

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 6/5/2003

A New Jersey priest who has been an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church's handling of the clergy sexual abuse scandal said yesterday that he was fired from his job running two Newark schools in retaliation for his views.

''It appears that the crisis is not getting better,'' the Rev. Robert Hoatson, 51, said yesterday during a news conference organized by a Boston attorney who is suing the Archdiocese of Boston on behalf of numerous alleged abuse victims. ''I believe it is getting worse, and I am not sure that we have been straightforward and honest with the victims . . . and with society in general.''

Hoatson said he spoke at a forum in Albany sponsored by the New York Legislature two weeks ago, calling on lawmakers there to pass tougher laws protecting children from sexual abuse. Three days later, he was relieved of his duties running two urban schools by the Archdiocese of Newark.

Church officials in Newark, however, called Hoatson ''troubled'' and said he was removed over questions about how he ran the schools and whether he had alienated members of a lay advisory group. Hoatson had also notified church officials that he was quitting, then changed his mind, but a replacement had already been recruited, Archdiocese of Newark spokesman James Goodness said.

Hoatson spoke yesterday at the offices of attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents three former students at Boston's Catholic Memorial High School who allege that they were abused by Monsignor Frederick Ryan in the early 1980s. Ryan, a vice chancellor for the Archdiocese of Boston, drove the football team bus, said Mass for the team, took the captains out to dinner, and hung pictures of players in his room at the chancery.

Hoatson, who was at Catholic Memorial during the time the alleged abuse occurred, said he regrets not pursuing his suspicions about Ryan 20 years ago. That regret, he said, has driven him to speak out about the abuse scandal.

He also said his own experiences with sexual abuse have led him to speak out. He said that six months of therapy have helped him recover suppressed memories of being abused as a seminarian in the 1970s. He also says he was abused at 12, and possibly when he was as young as 3.

Hoatson said he was sexually abused over a four-year period by a fellow seminarian in the Irish Christian Brothers, and over an 18-month period by a higher-ranking member of the order.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 6/5/2003.
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