State police want to know whether anyone in the Capital Region was victimized by a 65-year-old priest who resigned as pastor of a Queens church late last year after allegations of sexual abuse involving boys.
Monsignor George F. Zatarga owns a seasonal home in the town of Greenfield, according to Senior Investigator John Brooks of the state police in Wilton. The New York Daily News recently reported that an 18-year-old man from New York City reported that he had been molested by Zatarga at his home upstate.
“He’s not up here on a regular basis, and we have no information that he has been up here recently,” Brooks said on Thursday.
State police and the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office are asking anyone with information about Zatarga related to sexual abuse to contact the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation office at Wilton at 583-7010.
Mark Lyman, upstate coordinator for SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests), praised the state police for taking a “proactive” approach to investigating Zatarga.
Lyman said the Daily News story published in January indicated that five men have come forward saying that they were sexually abused as young men by the priest at his upstate home. Some of these abuse allegations go back 20 years, Lyman said.
A statement from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn said that Zatarga has been placed on administrative leave “after receiving allegations of sexual abuse placed on the diocese’s telephone reporting line.”
Zatarga, who was the pastor of American Martyrs Church in Bayside, Queens, since 2005, “acknowledged the inappropriate behavior.”
“He also wrote a letter resigning his pastorate and agreed to undergo counseling and treatment, which he has begun,” said the bishop’s statement dated Dec. 3, 2007. A priest on administrative leave is not permitted to present himself as a priest, wear clerical attire, celebrate Mass publicly or administer the sacraments, according to the bishop’s statement.
There are no current local sexual abuse complaints against the priest, police said.
Assistant District Attorney Karen A. Heggen said Thursday that state police want to conduct a thorough and complete investigation into Zatarga’s activities locally and are seeking any information that may be helpful to this investigation.
A Daily News story published Jan. 6 delved into the accusations made by the men who came forward, some recalling events going back 20 years.
The story said that at least five men have told the diocese that Zatarga molested them as teenagers and that the most recent allegations came in 2007, when the priest allegedly took an 18-year-old man to Zatarga’s home outside Saratoga Springs.
Before Zatarga became pastor of American Martyrs Church, he served as diocesan vicar for senior priests for six years. During his 40-year career as a priest, Zatarga served as chaplain at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn and at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens and was pastor of several churches, among other duties with the Brooklyn diocese, the bishop’s statement said.