WESTFIELD, NJ — When the Archdiocese of Newark released its list of priests credibly accused of sex abuse earlier this year, Westfield resident Michael Mautone distinctly recognized one name on the list: the man he recalls abused him when he was 16 years old.
The church lists “child pornography” next to the name of that man, Kevin Gugliotta, and shows seven parishes -- including St. Bartholomew Church in Scoth Plains -- where Gulgliotta served in New Jersey following his ordination as a priest in 1996 and prior to his being “permanently removed” from the ministry.
The one parish that is not listed next to Gugliotta’s name is the one under which he stands accused of abusing Mautone: St. Francis Xavier Church in Newark, where he led Boy Scout Troop 38. Now 49, Mautone recalls Gugliotta’s leadership of the Boy Scout Troop he belonged to in the 1980s.
“He was not a priest when he abused me. He was one of my Boy Scout leaders, but he was also a close family friend,” said Mautone during an interview at his home in Westfield. “He was around my family long before I joined the Boy Scouts.”
Gugliotta gained Mautone’s trust, taking him on Boy Scout outings with the troop and later taking young Mautone camping alone.
“When the abuse started, it would be on trips like that,” Mautone said. “He would be touching me when I was sleeping. I didn’t know what was happening and how to make sense of it. I was in disbelief.”
The abuse happened at least five times, Mautone said. “There were a couple of instances later on when I was wide awake and he put his hands down my pants and on my penis.”
Later on, the abuse took a different form, Mautone said.
“It became a lot of inappropriate advances under the guise of friendly hugs, prolonged uncomfortable hugs trying to kiss me on the mouth a couple of times when I didn’t feel the same way,” he said. “It kind of warped into sexual harassment.”
Mautone said he detailed his allegations for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office in 2003.
“I really saw things clearly and realized that other people were at risk, and I wanted to do something to protect others,” he said. “My first daughter was born in 2003. That also prompted me.”
While the prosecutor’s office did not lodge charges in 2003, Gugliotta was arrested in 2016 and convicted in 2017 on child pornography charges, the Pennsylvania sex offender registry shows. He had been found with child pornography at his vacation home in Wayne County, PA, according to reports from the time.
Two years later, Gugliotta’s name appeared on the church’s list of credibly accused, detailing the seven parishes at which he had served at under the archdiocese: Holy Spirit in Union, Immaculate Conception in Mahwah, Ramapo College in Mahwah, St. Bartholomew in Scotch Plains, St. Joseph in West Orange, St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff and St. Rose of Lima in Short Hills.
That the Archdiocese listed only “child pornography” next to Gugliotta’s name concerned Mautone. “It’s as if to say he’s on the list for his child pornography charges and not for my allegations,” Mautone told TAPinto.
He now lives just several miles from St. Bart's, where Gugliotta was assigned after the accusations Mautone lodged in 2003. While a church review board suspended Gugliotta in 2003, the church later reinstated him, a story reported by NJ.com shortly after the 2016 arrest.
“The fact that he was assigned at St. Bart’s, and that he may have harmed people three miles from my house, has probably caused me more suffering than the original abuse,” Mautone told TAPinto. “If there is a civil case, I certainly would want to pursue it.”
Statutes of limitations do not allow prosecutors to pursue a case for the abuse Mautone said occurred in his childhood.
In an effort to prevent others from becoming victims, Mautone continues to tell his story and has sought to make inroads in Scotch Plains, particularly after a victim of Gugliotta’s filed suit on March 8 against the Archdiocese of Newark, St. Bart's, and others for alleged abuse that Gugliotta committed while assigned in Scotch Plains.
The lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Union County on behalf of the undisclosed plaintiff claims that Gugliotta abused a boy beginning around 2004 while serving as the Head of Youth Ministry at St. Bartholomew. (The church says Gugliotta was not assigned there until 2006.)
That abuse occurred after then Archdiocese of Newark John J. Myers knew of “Gugliotta’s dangerous sexual proclivities,” the lawsuit claims.
The Archdiocese knew of these sexual proclivities because a man referred to in the court papers as “Mr. X” notified the church that Gugliotta had abused him while he was a Boy Scout, according to the complaint filed in the lawsuit.
Mautone is "Mr. X," and the attorney representing the plaintiff in the recent case is the same man who accompanied Mautone when he told his story of Gugliotta’s alleged abuse to the Archdiocese in 2003.
“He told them in great detail what Gugliotta had done to him and was very specific,” said that attorney, Gregory G. Gianforcaro. “He was clear and unambiguous.”
Asked about the litigation, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese Newark said the church removed Gugliotta from the ministry.
“The Archdiocese of Newark permanently removed Fr. Kevin Gugliotta from ministry in 2016 and steps to laicize him were taken prior to the latest allegation,” said Maria Margiotta in a statement provided to TAPinto. “He is being monitored currently by the civil authorities in Pennsylvania."
“We continue to work diligently in collaboration with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Task Force to ensure justice is served. Most importantly, we wish to express our sincere regret to all victims betrayed by a member of our Church and continue to offer our prayers and support as they continue on their healing journey.”
Rev. John J. Paladino, the pastor at St. Bartholomew Church, said he had not seen the lawsuit. However, Father Paladino discussed the efforts his church has made toward healing following Gugliotta’s tenure in Scotch Plains. That has included through services with a faith-based group affiliated with the Catholic Church.
“Because Father Kevin Gugliotta was here, what we tried to do was be as proactive as possible in order to listen to people and to be available to them,” Paladino said. “We’ve had a listening session that was facilitated by RENEW International that has been doing this throughout the country to help the church deal with the sexual abuse crisis.”
Sandra Carroll, the safe environment director at St. Bartholomew who handles such matters, said no victims have come forward — at least to the church in Scotch Plains — to report sexual abuse in the six years she has been assigned to her position.
“I’m available. My name is always up in the north end of the church. Please contact me if you suspect any type of abuse. Please contact me,” she tells parishioners. “My number is always there and has been there for six years. Yes, I am employed by the church, but I represent someone you can speak to.”
And while the civil litigation names Gugliotta, no indictable charges have been filed against him within Union County, said Mark Spivey, spokesman for the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
Asked if any other victims had come forward with criminal allegations, the office could not disclose such information, Spivey said. “Regarding your remaining questions, please be advised that the Prosecutor’s Office cannot confirm nor deny any information,” Spivey said.
Gianforcaro said the civil case pending against Gugliotta and the church is in its early stages and a recently approved state law will make it easier for plaintiffs to litigate such cases.
In addition to extending the statute of limitations under which victims of sexual abuse may bring their claims, the law will also allow for a two-year window during which victims of sexual abuse may bring claims against their abusers no matter when the alleged abuse happened.
The window opens Dec. 1 of this year and will remain open through Nov. 30, 2021.
“It will allow any man or woman who was sexually abused in the state of New Jersey, no matter how old they are now, it will give them a two-year window to bring any claims of abuse from the past,” Gianforcaro said.
Mautone has some time to decide if he will litigate. If he does it would be about holding his abuser to account and uncovering the truth surrounding that abuse, he said.
“I hope all other victims of Kevin [Gugliotta] find the courage to come forward and report their abuse to authorities: to hold Kevin, the Archdiocese, and Myers accountable,” Mautone said.
Michael Mautone will discuss the reality of childhood sexual abuse, and how letting go of the terrible secrets of others is often the first step towards healing Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7:00 p.m. at the Shady Rest Clubhouse at Scotch Hills Country Club, 820 Jerusalem Road, Scotch Plains. The event is free. Attendees are asked to register here on Eventbrite. Click here for more information on the event.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh