February 23, 2005

Cops probe harassment of priest

Daily Record

By Abbott Koloff, Daily Record

MENDHAM -- Law enforcement authorities acknowledged Tuesday that they are investigating a complaint by a prominent Catholic priest who said he was being harassed over the Internet, and who resigned from his position as pastor as a result of that alleged harassment.

Church officials said Monday that the Rev. Philip Briganti had resigned as pastor of St. Joseph's Parish, and that the resignation was related to a personal matter that involved a police investigation. Those who knew about the investigation said Briganti was not the subject of criminal allegations but that it involved something in his personal life that made it difficult for him to continue as pastor.

Mendham police said Tuesday that Briganti recently brought a complaint to them, saying he was being harassed in e-mails sent from someone who appears to live overseas. Police said they were looking at the e-mails, which appear to have a French address, as a possible extortion attempt and acknowledged that the e-mails also were sent to several other people associated with St. Joseph's parish.

Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese officials said Briganti offered his resignation to Bishop Arthur Serratelli and immediately would be replaced as pastor by Monsignor Joseph Anginoli, presently pastor of St. Simon the Apostle in Rockaway Township. Briganti, they said, remains a priest in good standing.

Anginoli, who did not return phone calls the past two days, comes to a parish that has been in the news regularly over the past few years. Dozens of young men say they were abused there by a former pastor decades ago and the church has become home over the past three years to victims' support groups.

Posted by kshaw at February 23, 2005 07:28 AM