N.J. priest in sexting sting thought he was talking to 16-year-old boy, wanted to meet
on September 29, 2013 at 12:10 AM, updated September 29, 2013 at 8:37 AM
The text messages read as if they’ve been ripped from a pornographic novel.
Matthew Riedlinger quizzed his texting partner about sex videos, pressed for details about intimate liaisons, described sexual acts and encouraged mutual masturbation.
He also repeatedly asked to meet.
“Promise me you will never breath (sic) a word of this to anyone — ok?” he wrote.
Riedlinger had good reason for discretion.
He is a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, and while exchanging more than 1,200 text messages over four weeks last year, he thought was he talking to a 16-year-old boy.
Riedlinger, at the time an assistant pastor at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson and a sex-education teacher at the parish school, was the target of an elaborate sting by a Catholic University of America graduate who says the priest sexually harassed him for years.
Timothy Schmalz, now 23 and a resident of Washington, D.C., said he was moved to action after his first complaint about Riedlinger in 2011 resulted in what he characterized as a slap on the wrist by Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell.
Schmalz is one of five young men who provided The Star-Ledger with similar accounts of harassment and sexual obsession by the priest. Four of the five were in their late teens or early 20s when Riedlinger began inappropriate and persistent sexual dialogues with them, they said. The fifth was in his late 20s.
The sting, initiated on Facebook and carried out through the use of a Google Voice account, partially served its purpose.
After Schmalz forwarded transcripts of the text messages and other materials to O’Connell in August 2012, the bishop removed Riedlinger from the parish, placed him in an in-patient treatment program and later assigned him to restricted ministry away from children, the diocese confirmed.
But for more than a year, O’Connell refused to tell parishioners at St. Aloysius why the priest had been pulled, an omission that advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse call a flagrant violation of the church’s pledge of transparency.
Moreover, the former pastor, the Rev. Kevin Keelan, chastised parishioners for asking questions about Riedlinger’s removal, saying in the church bulletin that “blabbing” was a sin and that they were not entitled to more information.
O’Connell informed parishioners of the complaints in a statement only last weekend, a day after The Star-Ledger questioned the diocese about Riedlinger and the decision to withhold information about the allegations.