By Lauren Minore
In light of multiple allegations of child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, a former Rider priest has been recognized as having credible accusations of sexual abuse of a minor against him.
Andrew Dittrich, who served at Rider from 1977 to 1989, was one of 50 clergy members on the list of credibly accused child sex offenders in New Jersey and nearby states. The list was released by the USA Northeast Province of the Jesuits, which represents Roman Catholic priests in parts of New Jersey.
According to the USA Northeast Province of the Jesuits website, the regional organization represents eight states, including New York, northern New Jersey and Connecticut, among others.
The allegations against Dittrich surfaced in 2002 and resurfaced in 2018. According to the report from the organization, Dittrich was accused of sexual abuse of minors between 1966 and 1976 — one year prior to his involvement with the university.
Dittrich also served at Rutgers University from 1970-1977, six years during the time which he was accused of sexual abuse.
In a letter from Fr. John J. Cecero, Provincial of USA Northeast Province, said, “Hoping to contribute to healing from the pain and anger caused by clergy sex abuse and the lack of accountability and transparency on the part of church leadership, I am making public a list of any Jesuit in the USA Northeast Province who has had a credible allegation of abuse against a minor or vulnerable adult since 1950.”
On the official published list, a note indicated that, “Any allegation is deemed ‘credible’ if there is a preponderance of evidence that the allegation is more likely true than not after investigation. Credibility can also be established by conviction in a court or by the admission of the truth of the allegation by the Jesuit.” Dittrich’s status of allegations were deemed “credible after investigation” on the list.
Kristine Brown, associate vice president for university marketing and communications, said the University “probably did not” perform background checks during the time frame in which the priest was affiliated with Rider.
“From what I can gather, the university never hired priests or other clergy as actual employees, but rather the priests were assigned to Rider from their home diocese where they would have been actually employed,” Brown said.
Although he was not employed by Rider, Dittrich’s association with USA Northeast Province’s list is unsettling with members of the Rider community.
“It’s scary to know that he served at a place as safe as Rider feels,” sophomore psychology major Shannon McGinty said.
Dittrich died in 1990.
Similar allegations against priests in the Catholic Church have made long-lasting impact with some of those currently practicing the religion.
“It hasn’t affected the way I practice my faith, but it affects the way I think I will raise my family someday within the faith,” McGinty said. “I don’t know if I will be as active practicing [my religion] as I was growing up.”
In response to similar growing allegations, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal launched a task force in September 2018 to investigate priest sexual abuse accusations in the Catholic Church.