Father Sal DiStefano
Archdiocese of Newark
Assigned as follows:
- Oratory Preparatory School (Summit, NJ)
- Our Lady of Peace (New Providence, NJ)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Sal DiStefano:
Father Sal DiStefano was ordained a priest and served in the Archdiocese of Newark. He spent more than 30 years in education, as well as several years in law enforcement. He holds doctorates in education and psychology. According to media reports, in January 2020, the Archdiocese of Newark announced that he was suspended from ministry pending investigation of multiple allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Details regarding the nature of the allegations, such as the age/gender of the alleged victims or the time period during which the abuse is alleged to have occurred were not disclosed.
On October 1, 2020, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office announced that it arrested DiStefano following an investigation into allegations of misconduct at Oratory Prep. DiStefano, ag 61, was charged with five counts of second-degree use of a juvenile to commit a crime and six counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
According to media reports, the law enforcement investigation revealed that DiStefano would frequently attempt to speak with the students about sex and instructed a student to masturbate in order to relieve stress. He also allegedly made repeated attempts to entice a student to accompany him away from the school alone, telling the student to leave his cell phone at school so that his true location would be hidden from his parents while DiStefano met with the child off-campus.
According to the charging documents, “Father Sal,” as he was known to students, would allow his teenaged victims to consume edible items infused with marijuana in his office. He also allegedly purchased tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cartridges, which students would smoke in DiStefano’s office while he was present, and provided students money so they could purchase such items for themselves.
DiStefano also took actions designed to maintain his control over the group, according to one report. At one point, DiStefano attempted to convince multiple students to harass and otherwise intimidate a former’ Knights of Malta’ member who had been dismissed from the club, ordering them to make the victim’s daily life so difficult that he would quit school. These alleged efforts included convincing one student to post false negative information about the other student on social media. In another instance, when DiStefano learned that the former club member was hosting a party, he allegedly instructed current club members to plan a party for the same night, ordering them to make a list of alcohol they wanted so he could buy it for them.
When students or others expressed concerns about his conduct to DiStefano, he also allegedly took steps to cover up his activities, such as telling one victim to delete all text messages between them from his phone.
DiStefano was the fourth priest arrested by the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force, which was formed by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in September 2018 to investigate allegations of clergy abuse following the release of the landmark grand jury investigation report in Pennsylvania in August 2018.
DiStefano was a middle-school teacher in Brooklyn public schools when he entered St. John Neumann Residence for men considering the priesthood in 1999. But after two years in the program he felt that he “wanted to take a little more time” before actually enrolling in the seminary. He returned to the seminary in time to begin the 2002 academic year. He ultimately served summers assisting at St. Philip Neri parish in the Bronx and taking apostolic assignments in the religious education program of Our Lady of the Assumption parish, the Bronx; as an assistant campus minister at Manhattan College; and as a member of the seminary mission team. But again, after completing three years of the four-year program, he still wasn’t ready to make a final commitment. He took another year off.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused in the Archdiocese of Newark, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Newark 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.