Former NJ prosecutor named to top role in Metuchen diocese

Kearns Headshot002 Anthony P. Kearns III, Esq., Chancellor of the Diocese of Metuchen. Courtesy photo.

The Diocese of Metuchen has named a former public prosecutor as its new chancellor, Bishop James F. Checchio announced on March 1.


Anthony P. Kearns III, Esq. will begin his new role on April 12.


Kearns previously served as the Hunterdon County Prosecutor and a former Deputy Attorney General of New Jersey. In his new office, he will oversee the diocese's corporate structures, supervise diocesan directors and their offices, support the diocese's Catholic schools and Catholic Social Services, and will maintain the diocesan archives and records.


In a statement released by Metuchen announcing the hire, Bishop Checchio said that he had "consulted many" people over the appointment and had carefully considered the decision.


Checchio said Kearns "will bring much knowledge and experience to the position," and that his "broad skillset" would "guide us further especially where civil and Church matters intersect."


According to canon law, the chancellor of a diocese is responsible for maintaining the diocesan records, including confidential files often known as the secret archive. In many dioceses in the United States the role has been expanded, with the chancellor sometimes functioning as a virtual chief operating officer of the diocese.


The appointment of the former prosecutor comes shortly after the release of the names of "credibly" accused clergy in all the dioceses of New Jersey, and the creation of a special statewide compensation program for abuse victims.


The Diocese of Metuchen was erected in 1981. Its first bishop was Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick was laicized, removed from the clerical state, on February 16, after a canonical process found him guilty of several charges of sexual abuse involving both adults and minors.


Prior to the installation of Cecchio in 2016, the diocese had been led since 2002 by Bishop Paul Bootkoski, previously McCarrick's auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Newark.

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In August 2018 former Apostolic Nuncio Carlo Vigano, accused Bootkoski of covering up McCarrick's abuse of seminarians and priests. Bootkoski disputed the Vigano claims, and said that he had handled all abuse allegations against McCarrick in a timely manner.


The Diocese of Metuchen was one of three dioceses to agree a settlement with one of McCarrick's adult victims. That settlement, paid in 2005, was not made public until the summer of 2018.


In addition to his legal career, Kearns is a trained family and adolescent therapist. He has also worked with survivors of domestic violence, both men and women.


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In his announcement, Checchio praised Kearns for his "active faith and dedication to the Church," and said that he was "especially grateful for his personal faith and integrity as a Catholic citizen" in accepting the position.


Kearns is married and has four children. He is a native of Hunterdon County, in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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