Last updated: Saturday, August 23, 2014, 1:07 AM
Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014, 5:17 PM
The Mercer County (N.J.) Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest Thursday of a Roman Catholic priest on charges that he sexually abused a 16-year-old boy this year.
Authorities said they had charged the Rev. Romannilo “Nilo” Apura, a pastor at St. Martha’s parish in Point Pleasant, with endangering the welfare of a child, aggravated criminal sexual contact, and attempt to commit criminal sexual contact.
Apura, 67, is accused of having sexual contact with the boy in late spring or early summer at a Trenton home, prosecutors said. In a separate incident in June, he allegedly tried to remove the boy’s pants.
He had previously served at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Moorestown, St. Joachim in Trenton, St. Agnes in Atlantic Highlands, St. Maximilian Kolbe in Toms River, St. Ann in Keansburg, and St. Mary of the Assumption in Trenton.
The Diocese of Trenton said it had learned of the abuse allegations only Monday, and that the alleged acts had “no connection to St. Martha parish,” where Apura had been pastor since July 2012.
Rayanne Barnett, diocesan spokeswoman, said Bishop David M. O’Connell had turned the investigation over to civil authorities and that Apura – a Philippine native who was admitted to the diocese in 2000 – was suspended from active ministry pending its outcome.
He is being held at the Mercer County Correction Center on $100,000 bail and was ordered to surrender his passport. During his suspension, he may not wear clerical garb or publicly administer sacraments, or present himself as a priest.
Barnett said that no other complaints had been reported against Apura, and that it had no other priests currently under investigation for sexual impropriety.
The diocese’s swift and public removal of Apura comports with mandatory protocols that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established 11 years ago for all dioceses dealing with clergy sex-abuse charges.
Those guidelines, called norms, also stipulated that dioceses cease their previous practice of conducting their own secret investigations of clergy sex abuse, and turn each case over to civil authorities.
The bishops’ conference established the norms in the wake of devastating reports of widespread clergy sex abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston and elsewhere.
Anyone with information relevant to the Apura case is asked to call the prosecutor’s office at 609-989-6568 or the Diocese of Trenton abuse hotline at 1-888-296-2965.
Emily Babay of Philly.com contributed to this article.