February 24, 2005

St. Joseph’s pastor steps down, target of extortion attempt


By MARIA VOGEL-SHORT Staff Writer MENDHAM - The pastor of St. Joseph Church resigned his post after he became a victim of an attempted extortion, authorities said on Tuesday.

The Rev. Philip Briganti, 57, agreed to step down from his post after meeting with Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, the head of the Catholic diocese in Paterson.

Briganti is part of an ongoing investigation that began on Friday, Feb. 11, when the priest went to the police headquarters and asked for help, according to Mendham Lt. John Taylor.

An individual contacted Briganti three times over the Internet to extort money from the pastor, Taylor said. Taylor would not identify the suspect nor would he say the amount of money requested.

“He (Briganti) is the victim of the investigation,” said Taylor. “He is not a suspect related to this investigation.” ...

Pat Seranno, a Maple Avenue resident and long-time parishioner who has been involved with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said she was surprised with the resignation, but didn’t know Briganti that well. She said she was not connected with him, other than when he came to a SNAP meeting.

“He came to one meeting and I wasn’t involved with him after that,” Serranno said.

Her son, Mark, a SNAP leader who was sexually assaulted by former St. Joseph’s pastor James Hanley when he was 9, also said the resignation did not come as a surprise.

“Nothing’s a surprise for me, especially nothing from the diocese,” said Mark Seranno. “There is a long legacy of corruption in the diocese. People were originally told over the weekend that (Father) Briganti was sick. This follows a continued pattern of secrecy with the diocese. Everything is done in secrecy. And a replacement is found instantly, where it took months to find a replacement for (Monsignor) Lasch.”

Posted by kshaw at February 24, 2005 08:03 PM