Father Joseph F. McHugh
Diocese of Trenton
Removed from active ministry: 1996
Assigned as follows:
- St. Mary (New Monmouth, NJ)
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Maple Shade, NJ)
- St. Gregory the Great (Hamilton Square, NJ)
- St. Raphael (Hamilton, NJ)
- St. Joseph (Beverly, NJ)
- St. Veronica (Howell, NJ)
- St. Thomas More (Manalapan, NJ)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Father Joseph F. McHugh:
According to media reports, in the early 1990s, a Trenton priest wrote a letter to the Diocese of Trenton regarding the odd behavior of Fr. Joseph McHugh toward the young boys of the parish. McHugh would routinely pick up boys from Our Lady of Perpetual Help to take them to shopping malls or the arcade as part of a grooming period of spending time alone with him. The other priest found this behavior eerie, but apparently, the Diocese did not because there was no investigation.
Additionally, McHugh would often take these boys on unsupervised trips out of the county. Concerned, the other priest took it upon himself to contact the parents of the children in an attempt to alert them of McHugh’s behavior.
In 1996, the Diocese removed McHugh from active ministry due to an accusation that McHugh molested a 9-year-old boy while taking the child to and from basketball games. According to the victim, the abuse occurred between the years 1994 and 1996 while McHugh served as a priest at St. Thomas More in Manalapan, New Jersey.
According to media reports, when confronted about why nothing was done in response to the original letter from another priest, the Diocese of Trenton told reporters they did not respond to the prior letter as it did not list specific instances of concern along with none of the boys coming forward with a formal complaint of McHugh’s behavior but said it sent McHugh to six months of psychiatric treatment at St. John Vianney Center, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests, in response to the letter.
In 2006, McHugh was criminally charged for the 1996 abuse. Under a plea deal meant to spare the victim and his family the publicity of a criminal trial, McHugh pled guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and the sexual abuse charge was dropped. McHugh was sentenced to five years of probation. McHugh was also required to register with the state as a sex offender under Megan’s Law.
Joseph McHugh is listed on the Diocese of Trenton’s February 2019 list of accused priests, though the Diocese has not provided any information about the allegations that led to his inclusion on the list, except to say there were “multiple”.
In 2019, there was a lawsuit filed claiming abuse of a boy, ages 11-16, in 1979-84. In addition, there were two lawsuits filed in 2020 alleging abuse of a child, ages 10-12, in 1980-82, and another alleging abuse of a girl, ages 6-7, in 1974-75; there was a settlement in low five figures.
According to the Diocese of Trenton, Joseph McHugh is now deceased. He was never laicized and remained a priest, albeit without faculties, at the time of his death.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Trenton in New Jersey. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in New Jersey, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Trenton now have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in New Jersey and nationwide. We can help.