For the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the lay of the land here, Haddonfield is a beautiful (rich) little town in Jersey about 15 minutes over the Delaware River bridges.
A former priest accused of sexually abusing more than a dozen girls while serving in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia performed a baptism in Haddonfield in the summer, weeks after he had been defrocked.
Camden diocesan officials confirmed yesterday that Nicholas V. Cudemo performed the baptism July 10 at Christ the King Church at a family's request.
The Rev. Joseph D. Wallace said he was unaware Cudemo had been laicized, meaning he was no longer a priest, until a church deacon saw the name in the baptism registry a week later and alerted him.
Tom Hafner, the deacon, recognized the name because his brother-in-law had been assigned with Cudemo in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
"It's an unfortunate incident," Wallace said. "He was in and out of the church in half an hour. He wasn't around any other parishioners or children."
I mentioned sometime ago that I saw a suspect priest do a wedding in the fall of 2002 here in Philadelphia. It was Nick Cudemo, who had already been suspended for about six years at the time. Knowing what was in the water, I pulled him aside to basically ask "What the hell are you doing here?" He replied that he had been out of ministry "because of a car accident," but still did a function or two as he was able.
Of course, bullshit though that was, I couldn't start a scene, and Cudemo's name wasn't published at the time. But as his laicization was no secret -- it was well-publicized when it hit in a group of seven back in June -- this lapse of oversight beggars belief.
I have a question for the priests and pastors out there: If a family's bringing in its own priest to do a baptism, wedding or funeral, don't you ask who it is? If Joe Wallace had heard the name "Cudemo," I have no doubt it would've instantly put a lightbulb on in his brain.
Andy Walton, the Camden diocese spokesman (and a really good guy, to boot) says that the baptism is still valid
Although Cudemo was not authorized to act as a priest, the baptism is still valid because it meets the three required criteria, Walton said. Cudemo used the proper matter, water and oil; the proper form in reciting the rite of baptism; and had the proper intent that the child be baptized.Um, yeah, but "intent" doesn't equal effect when the celebrant lacks the character of the office. Or am I wrong?
Sacramental theologians, it's your call.