Priest-turned-teacher accused of exploiting boys

(Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger)
John Capparelli, a suspended priest, now works as a teacher. (Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger)

For nearly two decades, he was known as Father John, the Roman Catholic priest who passed out skimpy, tight-fitting bathing suits to young wrestlers and snapped pictures by the thousands.

Sometimes, he’d join in the bouts, donning a Speedo himself and grappling with teenage boys, one accuser said.

Amid claims of inappropriate conduct — and after a months-long stay at a treatment center for troubled clergy members — the Rev. John M. Capparelli was suspended from ministry by the Archdiocese of Newark in 1992.

He later started a fetish website that sold videos of buff young men engaged in erotic wrestling, corporate records show.

Today, he can be found teaching math to ninth-graders in Newark.

An examination of Capparelli’s background — including interviews with former parishioners and acquaintances and a review of actions taken by the archdiocese — shows alarms were raised for decades about a man who continues to work closely with children.

The examination also found evidence of financial impropriety in Capparelli’s past. Specifically, he was accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars while working as a part-time bookkeeper for a pair of speech and hearing specialists.

Read the story at NJ.com (Oct. 16, 2011)

RELATED:

➽ Cleric sold videos of young men in suggestive poses (Oct. 16, 2011)

Nine years ago, the Rev. Glenn M. Davidowich made headlines around the country when he was identified as the founder and president of a company that produced and sold videos of teenage boys wrestling in Speedos.

Glenn Davidowich (Facebook)
Glenn Davidowich (Facebook)

Some likened the sexually suggestive videos — featuring wrestlers with names like the “Hardcore Kid” and “Bad Brad” — to child pornography. In several cases, the videos were shot on church property.

Despite the uproar, Davidowich was allowed to remain an active priest in the Byzantine Catholic Church, serving at parishes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

That decision is now in question. In June, the Eparchy of Passaic — the equivalent of a diocese — paid a Hopewell Township man $200,000 to settle claims Davidowich molested him for nearly three years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The allegations against Davidowich have some striking similarities to those lodged recently against the Rev. John M. Capparelli, a Roman Catholic priest suspended from ministry in 1992 amid complaints he had inappropriate contact with boys. Now a teacher in Newark, Capparelli also ran a website that sold videos of young men wrestling in Speedos.

There is no indication Davidowich and Capparelli know one another. Rather, they appear to share an interest in an erotic gay-wrestling subculture reflected in hundreds of websites and blogs.

“This is not the normal type of wrestling you would see on TV,” said Keith Durkin, a sociology professor at Ohio Northern University and an expert on sex offenders and certain sexual behaviors. “This wrestling fetish is something that’s underground. It’s one of these different subcultures many people don’t know exists.”

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE

➽ More alleged victims tell of abuse by suspended priest (Oct. 30, 2011)

Three decades later, Rich Fitter says, he still has nightmares about the wrestling priest.

Fitter was 15 when he met the Rev. John Capparelli, then the youth minister at a New Providence church and a teacher at Oratory Preparatory School in Summit.

Over the next two years, Fitter contends, Capparelli groped him, photographed him in revealing bathing suits and brutalized him during no-rules “submission wrestling” matches.

“Sadistic is probably a pretty good word to use,” said Fitter, now 45. “There were times he would grab your genitals and squeeze.”

Fitter is among more than 20 men who have come forward since The Star-Ledger reported earlier this month that Capparelli, now a public school teacher in Newark, had been accused in a recent lawsuit of sexually abusing a teenage boy at various New Jersey parishes in the 1970s and 1980s.

➽ Accused of groping boys in the past, teacher is removed from the classroom (Nov. 22, 2011)

A public school teacher in Newark has been removed from the classroom and assigned to an administrative position amid a growing number of claims that he groped teenage boys while serving as a priest in the 1980s.

John Capparelli, who taught math to ninth-graders at the Barringer 9 Success Academy, will no longer have direct contact with children under an agreement with district officials.

“This was an elective decision taken in consultation with the principal to minimize disruption,” Newark schools spokeswoman Renee Harper said. “He has not been demoted and remains an employee in good standing.”

State education officials, meanwhile, have opened their own investigation into Capparelli, whose history of alleged abuse was outlined in The Star-Ledger last month.

➽ Priest-turned-teacher barred from public schools over sex-abuse claims (June 30, 2013)

A public school teacher in Newark has agreed to the revocation of his teaching certificates over allegations that he repeatedly groped teenage boys in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was engaged in active ministry as a Roman Catholic priest.

The Rev. John Capparelli reached a settlement with the State Board of Examiners, the body that regulates teachers, ahead of a scheduled hearing before an administrative law judge earlier this month. The revocation takes effect today.

At least two of Capparelli’s alleged victims, Rich Fitter and Andrew Dundorf, were to testify at the hearing. A deputy attorney general also was expected to present evidence showing the teacher ran a fetish website featuring young men wrestling in skimpy bikini bathing suits.

➽ Byzantine Catholic priest who made sexually suggestive videos defrocked (July 26, 2013)

A Byzantine Catholic priest who once ran a wrestling website that critics likened to child pornography has been laicized — or expelled from the priesthood — following claims that he sexually abused teenage boys in New Jersey.

Glenn Davidowich, 49, had been on leave from ministry since at least 2011, when the Eparchy of Passaic reached a $200,000 settlement with one of his alleged victims. Davidowich now lives in Manitowoc, Wis.

The eparchy, the equivalent of a diocese in the Roman Catholic church, announced in its monthly newspaper, Eastern Catholic Life, that Davidowich was removed from the priesthood April 2. His expulsion was approved in December by Pope Benedict XVI.


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