TRENTON — Already embroiled in litigation, the Diocese of Trenton has been freshly accused of negligence for its failure to prevent childhood sex abuse.
Three lawsuits filed in Mercer County Superior Court on Thursday allege the diocese had “negligently retained” child-molesting priests who “posed a dangerous condition” toward youthful parishioners on church property.
These priests include former clergy members Ronald R. Becker, Douglas U. Hermansen and Joseph F. McHugh, men previously identified by the Diocese of Trenton as sexual predators.
Becker, who died in 2009, previously had assignments at the Incarnation Church in Ewing and Holy Angels in Hamilton. He “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with a 12-year-old “vulnerable child” in 1982, according to the allegations in a plaintiff’s lawsuit.
McHugh, now deceased, previously had assignments at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Maple Shade and Saint Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church in Hamilton Square. From approximately 1980 to 1982, McHugh molested a child aged 10 to 12, according to the allegations in another plaintiff’s lawsuit.
McHugh also pleaded guilty to third-degree endangering the welfare of a child by sexual conduct in 2005, receiving five years of probation at his 2006 sentencing hearing in Monmouth County Superior Court, records show.
Hermansen, an ex-priest removed from ministry, previously had assignments at St. Raphael in Hamilton, St. Rose of Lima in Freehold and as a chaplain at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence. From approximately 1985 to 1986, Hermansen is accused of sexual abuse on a child aged 12 to 13, according to a separate lawsuit filed by a third plaintiff.
The Diocese of Trenton last year publicly identified 31 former clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of a minor, including Becker, Hermansen and McHugh.
Greg Gianforcaro, the attorney who filed three separate civil-action complaints against the Diocese of Trenton on Thursday on behalf of three childhood sexual abuse victims, said his clients “are going to require counseling, therapy for the rest of their lives, and they did nothing to deserve that.”