Two N.J. Priests Step Down Over Sex Abuse Allegations

Two Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Newark have left their posts following allegations that they and a third priest sexually abused a teenage girl more than 20 years ago.

The Rev. Edward Eilert, pastor of St. Philomena's Church in Livingston, and the Rev. Joseph Rice, chaplain at Bergen Regional Health Care Center in Paramus, both stepped down "in the past few weeks," according to James Goodness, a church spokesman.

The third priest, the Rev. Bruno Ugliano, remains a chaplain at Rider College in Lawrenceville. Ugliano is a former headmaster of Delbarton School in Morristown and is a member of the Benedictine religious order, which has jurisdiction over its own members.

Goodness said Monday that information about the allegations against all three men had been turned over to the Union County Prosecutor's Office. Authorities there said they are investigating the claims, but the incidents may be too old to prosecute.

Goodness said the action to remove Rice and Eilert was taken when the archdiocese received a "credible" charge from the unidentified victim, who is now 38. He said the archdiocese alerted Benedictine officials in Morristown about the charges against Ugliano at the same time it notified county authorities.

The alleged victim, who now lives in North Carolina, said the incidents began in the early 1980s, when she was 14. She said they occurred at a time when her mother was dying of cancer.

Neither Rice nor Eilert could be reached for comment. Ugliano referred questions to his attorney, Michael Critchley, who said his client is innocent but is being swept up in a "frenzy" of accusations against priests.

"There is a frenzy that is developing, and it is almost out of control," Critchley told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Tuesday's editions. "We have to be careful that we don't commit an injustice in the search for justice."