Bishop suspends priest for ‘betrayal of trust’
JACKSON — The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, the Most Rev. David M. O’Connell, has formally suspended the Rev. Matthew Riedlinger from all priestly ministry, including presenting himself as a priest or wearing clerical garb.
Riedlinger previously served at St. Aloysius Church, Jackson.
According to a press release from the diocese, O’Connell has taken this rare step due to Riedlinger’s alleged actions, which the diocese said form a “betrayal of trust and confidence” for those whom Riedlinger may have hurt through online and cell phone activities, as well as for the Catholic community and beyond.
All information with regard to Riedlinger was turned over to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and the diocese will cooperate fully with them and any law enforcement agency, should further investigation into Riedlinger’s activities become necessary, according to the press release.
“I had tried from the beginning to take concerted action, but also to get help for Father Riedlinger. But the more I have learned of his actions during and subsequent to outpatient and inpatient treatment, the more it has become clear that strong, resolute and permanent action must now be taken to protect others, particularly our youth,” O’Connell said.
“I am seeking advice from the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith with regard to the next steps, as his actions have clearly contravened his priestly vows and, although given ample opportunity to atone for his actions and to get help for his problems, he has failed to do so.”
“I want to take this opportunity to express my sadness and regret to the parishioners of St. Aloysius and the entire diocese, who have had to deal with rumors and innuendo surrounding his conduct as well as Father Riedlinger’s sudden removal from that parish. Although I was restricted in what I could say at the time due to privacy constraints that I would respect for anyone, nevertheless, the parish community is especially due an apology for having been put through this ordeal,” O’Connell said.
“I wish to thank the Diocesan Review Board, the independent board advising me on our safe environment policies, which has been helpful in addressing this troubling situation as it has evolved over time.”
“As Catholics, we believe in the possibility of redemption and, as such, I will continue to make available whatever pastoral, medical and psychological help to Father Riedlinger is necessary to help him turn his life around. To anyone who may have been affected by his online and texting activities, I also reach out to them with the same offer, inviting them to contact our Office of Child Protection even if their concerns involve adults.”
O’Connell concluded, “Finally, I just wish to thank the priests of this diocese for upholding their high standards of moral conduct, and for the compassionate way they continue to carry out their duties and responsibilities every day in so many ways that benefit our community. We owe you an ongoing debt of gratitude and prayers.”