NewsRegion S Palm Beach CountyBoca Raton

Actions

Local priest accused of child sex abuse in New Jersey

Posted at 7:28 PM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 15:16:34-05

BOCA RATON, Fla. — A former priest from Boca Raton is accused of abusing a minor while serving as a priest in New Jersey.

Earlier this month, the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey released a list of 28 priests they found to have credible accusations of sexual abuse against minors.

Father John Sutton, once a priest at Saint Joan of Arc in Boca, was on that list. Click here for a list of all 28 priests.

Officials from the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, tell me the abuse allegation against Father John Sutton came into their office in 2005.

The victim told investigators they had been abused as a minor, by Sutton, 29 years before that, in the 70s.

According to a diocese lawyer, Father Sutton went on a leave of absence from the Diocese of Paterson in 1979. In 2000, he asked if he could resign and join the Diocese of Palm Beach instead.

Father Sutton officially joined the Diocese of Palm Beach in January 2000, according to Paterson records, and Sutton's family says he served at Saint Joan of Arc in Boca Raton. He passed away in August of 2000.

The Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey says it investigated the abuse claim in 2005, along with their local prosecutor's office, and found the accusation to be credible.

Contact 5 spoke to his sister Margaret by phone. She says she thinks the church is out of line for releasing his name after his death.

"I know my brother, he did not do anything like that. It besmirches his name and he cannot defend himself," said Margaret.

The bishop in Paterson said they released the names in an effort to promote healing for all victims of child sexual abuse.

Friday, the Diocese of Palm Beach issued this statement:

Fr. John Sutton came from the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, in 1994, to the Diocese of Palm Beach where his mother was living. He formally became a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach, through incardination, in 2000. During that time, he assisted as Parochial Vicar at the Parishes of St. Joan of Arc, Boca Raton, and at Sacred Heart, Lake Worth, before his death in 2000.

The Diocese of Palm Beach was never informed of any previous allegations of abuse before or during his ministry here. Likewise, no allegations were brought against him while Father Sutton was in ministry in the Diocese of Palm Beach. Only recently the Diocese of Palm Beach learned of the allegation brought to the Diocese of Paterson in 2005.

Earlier this month, we also asked the Diocese of Palm Beach if they would release a similar list of all priests with credible claims of abuse, like more than 112 other dioceses have done. They told Contact 5 "no response."

Eugene Rosenquest runs the Florida Chapter of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Abused by a priest as a child, Rosenquest told us there are several reasons why lists like the Diocese of Paterson's are necessary.

"It brings out truth, and truth is always a good thing. You can't solve a problem unless you recognize it," says Rosenquest. "It's also a deterrent for predators also who may be tempted to do something else that gives them access to children. And if the public is aware, it means they’ll be able to help recognize and find any potential predators who may have slipped through the cracks through the years."