When is a priest not a priest?

From The Newark Star-Ledger:

Chris Naples says something snapped inside him that January day.

The Burlington County man sat in the gallery of the Delaware Supreme Court, watching as a lawyer for the Diocese of Trenton told the justices that the Rev. Terence McAlinden was not “on duty” — or serving in his capacity as a priest — when he allegedly molested Naples on trips to Delaware in the 1980s.

McAlinden, who once headed the diocese’s youth group, had introduced himself to Naples at a church-sponsored leadership retreat in Keyport. He’d heard his confession, included him in private Masses and discussed matters of spirituality with him.

Yet McAlinden wasn’t officially a priest when he took a teenage Naples to Delaware, the lawyer argued.

“How do we determine when a priest is and is not on duty?” one of the justices asked, according to a video of the session on the court’s website.

“Well,” replied the diocese lawyer, “you can determine a priest is not on duty when he is molesting a child, for example. … A priest abusing a child is absolutely contrary to the pursuit of his master’s business, to the work of a diocese.”

The statement — one prong of the diocese’s argument that it should not be held responsible for McAlinden’s alleged assaults — left Naples reeling.

“Any hope I had that the church was concerned about me as a victim or about the conduct of its priests was totally gone,” Naples, now 42, said in a recent interview. “They were washing their hands of it. I was shattered. I just couldn’t believe that was one of their arguments.”

Saying church officials must be held accountable for their handling of McAlinden, Naples has now filed suit against the diocese in Superior Court in Mercer County.

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