Camden priest retires amid renewed abuse allegations

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Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, New Jersey (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, New Jersey (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A South Jersey priest announced his retirement over the holidays, following renewed allegations of child abuse.

In 2002, a man filed a claim with church officials and police alleging Reverend John D. Bohrer abused him as a child at Saint Pius X in Cherry Hill in the 1980s. After a suspension, Bohrer was reinstated by the Vatican and most recently served as an administrator at St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, New Jersey.

Mark Crawford is the director of the New Jersey branch of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP. He says the diocese knew about Bohrer and did nothing. “These are well-educated men,” said Crawford. “These are not mistakes, they are not accidents, they are not ‘oops’ a file got lost. This is somebody who is accused of molesting a child, so it cannot be wiped away or forgotten about.”

In a statement, the Diocese of Camden said the allegation came to light once again after a recent independent review of personnel files by a law firm. Crawford said Bohrer’s case shows the weakness of the Catholic Church’s zero-tolerance policy, which has been on the books since 2002. “The man was accused. They know it. They kept him in the ministry all these years. And they claimed that they had cleared him, but now they are revisiting it?” he said.

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Crawford credits outside pressure from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s statewide investigation into clergy abuse that began in September. The office began subpoenaing church documents in November. Crawford says SNAP would like to see the passage of state senate bill S477, which would remove the two-year statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases and expand the liability for defendants to include organizations. The bill, which has bipartisan support and 17 cosponsors, was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year.

New Jersey’s investigation follows Pennsylvania’s grand jury report, which identified 300 predator priests and over one thousand victims of abuse in five dioceses in August 2017.

SNAP offers weekly meetings for survivors of clergy abuse once a month. For more information, visit their website.

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