Fr. George Costigan – Diocese of Paterson

| Apr 15, 2019 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father George Costigan

Diocese of Paterson

Ordained: 1974

Removed: 1994

Died: 2015

Assigned as follows:

  • 1947-1948: Ammendale Normal Inst., Bros. of the Christian Schools (Ammendale/Beltsville, MD)
  • 1948-1952: De La Salle College (Washington, DC)
  • 1952-1953: Philadelphia Protectory for Boys (Phoenixville, PA)
  • 1953-1954: St. John’s College High School (Washington, DC)
  • 1954-1956: Holy Family Community (Ammendale / Beltsville, MD)
  • 1956-1957: Philadelphia Protectory for Boys (Phoenixville, PA)
  • 1957-1958: St. Francis Vocational School (Eddington, PA)
  • 1958-1961: Holy Family Community (Ammendale / Beltsville, MD)
  • 1961-1965: West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1965-1970: Holy Family Community (Ammendale / Beltsville, MD)
  • 1970-1971: St. Bartholomew’s parish (San Manuel, AZ)
  • 1970-1971: St. Helen’s (Oracle, AZ)
  • 1971-1974: Immaculate Conception Seminary (Darlington, NJ)
  • 1974-1975: St. Cecilia’s (Rockaway, NJ)
  • 1975-1993: Dover General Hospital (Dover, NJ)
  • 1993-2001: Felician Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Convent (Mt. Arlington, NJ)
  • 2002-2004: (Puentenansa, Spain)
  • 2004: Felician Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Convent (Mt. Arlington, NJ)
  • 2006: Hurricane Katrina relief (Huntsville, AL)

Summary of Allegations against Father George Costigan:

Fr. George Costigan was identified on the Diocese of Paterson’s February 2019 list of credibly accused priests. The Diocese did not release any information about the allegation(s) made against Costigan, such as the age/gender of the victim or Costigan’s assignment at the time of the abuse. However, the Bishop of Paterson says that the Diocese of Paterson, “has found that each of these persons [on the list] has been credibly accused of illegal sexual abuse involving minors. In the cases of several of the 28 individuals, they were also convicted of a criminal offense. As to others on the list, the Diocese of Paterson received information concerning possible misconduct by the individual, investigated the matter for corroborating evidence, and determined that the report was credible. Accordingly, while those individuals may deny having engaged in illegal behavior involving a minor and they are entitled to be presumed innocent in a criminal court of law, the Diocese has determined that the information it received was credible and it has thus included their names on this disclosure.”

The saga of George Costigan (a.k.a Br. Daniel Eliseus) is an example of the lengths the Diocese of Paterson – and other dioceses – will go to in order to prevent the scandal that child sexual abuse could bring to the Catholic Church’s bottom line.

Costigan began his career in the clergy as a Christian brother, known then as “Brother Daniel Eliseus”. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Paterson in 1974, after attending seminary.

According to media reports, on Nov. 19, 1993, an adult female accused Costigan of sexually abusing her, starting when she was nine years old, from 1965 through 1972. Costigan denied the accusation. At the time of the alleged abuse, Costigan was a close friend of the victim’s father and a Christian Brother teaching at West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys in the Philadelphia archdiocese. The alleged abuse, which is said to have included rape, continued until she attempted suicide as a sophomore in high school.

In 1993, the year the victim made her accusation, Bp. Rodimer of Paterson changed Costigan’s status to “retired” and re-assigned him as a chaplain to the Felician sisters convent in Mount Arlington, New Jersey, where the nuns ran a youth retreat house next door. Costigan retained his priestly faculties.

From approximately 2002-2004,  Costigan lived in Puentenansa, Spain, where he had previously gone on pilgrimage in 1994. He later returned to Mount Arlington. By this time, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had adopted the Dallas Charter and Costigan was suspended from ministry in the Diocese of Paterson for the 1993 allegation.

In 2006, Costigan was named an auxiliary contract chaplain of the Diocese of Birmingham. He worked at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal doing Katrina relief work in Huntsville, Alabama.

In 2007, Costigan violated the terms of his suspension by passing himself off as a priest at a Pennsylvania parish. Bp. Serratelli sent him a letter warning him that he could lose his retirement benefits. The Diocese of Paterson also sent alert letters in August 2007 to various places where Costigan worked or lived throughout the years, including St. Clare’s Hospital, Sacred Heart parish in Rockaway, the Felician Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Convent in Mount Arlington, NJ, and to the Birmingham, Alabama Catholic Dioceses, informing them that Costigan was a priest without faculties to minister.  In 2009, Costigan was again caught presenting himself as an active priest.

Throughout his career, Costigan had been a religious brother and a diocesan priest. He worked and resided in at least five dioceses in at least two countries. Often his assignments had been between jurisdictions; as a brother at a diocesan high school, for example, and a diocesan priest among members of a women’s religious order running a retreat center catering to diocesan youth groups. The victim has accused the church of exploiting these jurisdictions, instead of clarifying them and taking responsibility.

Costigan died in 2015.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Paterson. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Paterson, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Paterson now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Call us at 888-283-9922 or send an email to [email protected] to discuss your options today.