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Own Diocesan Priest
John Banko, 69, was pronounced dead at 9:29 a.m. Monday, said Matt Schuman, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.
Banko, a former pastor at St. Edward the Confessor in Milford , was convicted twice of sexual abuse during his tenure at the church. Known to parishioners as "Father Jack," Banko was convicted in December 2002 of molesting a former altar boy on two consecutive Sundays after Mass at the Milford church from September 1993 to September 1994.
rocked the Church earlier this year ended Dec. 11 with the conviction of Father John M. Banko on charges of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and third-degree child endangerment. The outcome was hailed by those connected with the case as a textbook example of how through full disclosure of information and cooperation between the Church and law enforcement, abusive priests can be brought to justice. Father Banko's conviction was based on incidents dating back approximately nine years when he was pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Parish, Milford.After less than two days of jury deliberations, Father Banko was found guilty of sexually abusing an 11-year-old altar boy on two consecutive Sundays in the sacristy of St. Edward the Confessor Church, where he served from 1989-95.Father John M. BankoHe is currently being held in the Hunterdon County Jail, Flemington.Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 7.Father Banko, who was ordained three decades ago in St. Mary Cathedral, Trenton, faces up to 20 years in prison.Additionally, diocesan officials are preparing to explore the canonical implications of Father Banko's case.Banko has been, and is currently, suspended from active ministry indefinitely. Upon hearing the verdict, Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski stated, "The criminal conviction of Father Banko brings closure to one aspect of what certainly has been a painful ordeal for so many, the first of which are the victim here and his family.The diocese also responded to the conviction with a statement that apologized to the victims of Father Banko's crimes.In that statement, Ronald C. Rak, diocesan general secretary for administrative and legal services, characterized Father Banko's conduct as "abhorrent" and said that such conduct by anyone affiliated with the diocese "is not and will not be tolerated."In an interview with The Catholic Spirit, assistant prosecutor Dawn Solari praised the diocese for fully cooperating with the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office throughout the three-year investigation of Father Banko.After speaking with the victim, Hunterdon County detectives interviewed numerous members of St. Edward the Confessor Parish, as well as St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Skillman, where Father Banko was founding pastor and served from 1982-89, and Mary, Mother of God Parish, Hillsborough, where he was associate pastor from 1996-2000. Father Banko was also interviewed during the investigation, but denied all allegations, Solari said.While consistently denying any wrongdoing with the victim, Father Banko admitted to having sexual relations with men and women.At the trial, he testified that the "promise of celibacy" he took when he was ordained does not directly mention abstaining from sex.Instead, as he sees it, the promise simply meant he must devote his life to the Church and could never marry.The diocese was first notified of the abuse allegations against the priest in April, 2000, at which point Father Banko was immediately suspended from active ministry.At the time of the suspension, Father Banko had already taken a leave of absence from Mary, Mother of God Parish to care for his ill mother.In regard to any canonical proceedings that might be taken against Father Banko, Msgr.Prior to the founding of the Diocese of Metuchen, Father Banko served the Trenton Diocese as associate pastor in St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood, from 1972-74, and chaplain in the now defunct St. Pius X High School, Piscataway, from 1974-82.In addition to the victim, three other witnesses testified during the trial that Father Banko made sexual advances toward them when they were minors.One witness knew Father Banko from St. Charles Borromeo Parish, while another was a member of St. Edward the Confessor Parish.Both witnesses, now in their 30s, spoke of Father Banko's inappropriate conduct, which ranged from serving them alcohol to grabbing their buttocks.The third witness told the court that he was molested by the priest for 10 years, beginning around 1972, when Father Banko was a seminarian in St. Mary Seminary, Baltimore.Prior to the trial, the victim had reported the abuse by his former religious education tutor to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.Following this lead, and ultimately securing the accuser as a key witness in the case, turned out to be a "significant" factor in Father Banko's conviction, said Solari.These include the victim's extended family and friends, Father Banko's family, and Banko's former parishioners, among others."An entire community was devastated by these selfish acts," he stated.Father John P. Bambrick, who was, himself, abused by a priest and is now a representative of the New Jersey chapter of SNAP (Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests), attended Father Banko's trial as a show of support for the victim.
John M. Banko, 62, is charged with abusing a boy who was younger than 16 years old when he was pastor at St. Edward's Roman Catholic Church in Milford between Sept. 1994 and May 1995. A grand jury indictment charged Banko on separate counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child in the latest case.In 2002, Banko was convicted for performing oral sex on another boy after Sunday Mass twice in the 1990s.Banko, known to parishioners as "Father Jack," became the first Catholic priest to be convicted following the child sex abuse scandals that that have rocked the church.He was pastor of St. Edward's for six years before the Diocese of Metuchen removed him in 1995, and transferred him to the Mary Mother of God Church in Hillsborough. Banko was then relieved of that assignment in April 2000, shortly after the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office began its investigation of the initial charges made against him.He is currently an inmate at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Avenel section of Woodbridge Township.See more in Court news, Crime/Courts, Hunterdon County, Middlesex County, News, Religion
FLEMINGTON -- John M. Banko, the former Milford priest convicted in 2002 of molesting an altar boy, will let a jury decide whether he is guilty of similar charges during an upcoming trial set to begin Nov. 5.Banko, 61, was indicted last year on one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.Prosecutors claim Banko sexually assaulted a child younger than 16 from Sept. 1, 1994 to May 15, 1995.The indictment came after the Diocese of Metuchen referred allegations it had received to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office.The diocese serves parishes in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Warren counties.>Banko, who is serving 15 years at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, pleaded not guilty last November to the charges.Known to parishioners as "Father Jack," Banko was convicted in December 2002 of molesting a former altar boy from September 1993 to September 1994 after Mass at St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church in Milford.Banko maintained his innocence during the trial.
In the first criminal trial of a New Jersey priest on sexual assault charges since the sex abuse scandal rocked the church beginning last January, Father John M. Banko was convicted Dec. 11 on charges of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and third-degree child endangerment.Father Banko's conviction was based on incidents dating back approximately nine years when he was pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Parish, Milford, in the Diocese of Metuchen.Sentencing was tentatively scheduled for Feb. 7.Father Banko, who was ordained three decades ago in Trenton, faces up to 20 years in prison. - - - Religious leaders of many faiths welcome new LAPD police chief