A Catholic priest who once ministered to an Ocean County congregation has been suspended following a sexting scandal with a man he reportedly thought was a 16-year-old boy.
The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., has formally suspended Rev. Matthew Riedlinger from all priestly ministry, including presenting himself as a priest or wearing clerical garb.
Riedlinger preached at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson until August 2012, when he entered counseling following complaints of inappropriate cellphone text conversations with other adults, according to USA Today.
The Diocese of Trenton said it has taken this "rare, but significant, step due to Father Riedlinger’s actions which form a ‘betrayal of trust and confidence,’ not only for those whom Father Riedlinger has hurt with his online and cell phone activities, but also for the Catholic community and beyond."
All information with regard to Father Riedlinger had been turned over to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Diocese will cooperate fully with them and any law enforcement agency, should further investigation into Father Riedlinger’s activities become necessary.
“I had tried from the beginning to take concerted action, but also to get help for Father Riedlinger. But the more I have learned of his actions during and subsequent to outpatient and inpatient treatment, the more it has become clear that strong, resolute and permanent action must now be taken to protect others, particularly, our youth,” said O’Connell.
“I am seeking advice from the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith with regard to the next steps, as his actions have clearly contravened his priestly vows, and, although given ample opportunity to atone for his actions and to get help for his problems, he has failed to do so.”