Peter Leo Gerety

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Peter Leo Gerety
Archbishop of Newark
SeeArchdiocese of Newark
AppointedMarch 25, 1974
InstalledJune 28, 1974
Term endedJune 3, 1986
PredecessorThomas Aloysius Boland
SuccessorTheodore Edgar McCarrick
Other post(s)Coadjutor Bishop of Portland (1966–69)
Bishop of Portland (1969–74)
OrdinationJune 29, 1939
ConsecrationJune 1, 1966
by Henry Joseph O'Brien
Personal details
BornJuly 19, 1912
DiedSeptember 20, 2016(2016-09-20) (aged 104)
Totowa, New Jersey, U.S.
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
MottoIn omnibus Christ
(In all circumstances, give thanks)
Ordination history of
Peter Leo Gerety
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byHenry Joseph O'Brien (Hartford)
DateJune 1, 1966
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Peter Leo Gerety as principal consecrator
Edward Cornelius O'LearyJanuary 25, 1971
Joseph Abel Francis, S.V.D.June 25, 1976
Robert Francis GarnerJune 25, 1976
Dominic Anthony MarconiJune 25, 1976
Frank Joseph RodimerFebruary 28, 1978
David Arias Pérez, O.A.R.April 7, 1983

Peter Leo Gerety (July 19, 1912 – September 20, 2016) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the Archbishop of Newark in New Jersey from 1974 to 1986, having previously served as Bishop of Portland in Maine from 1969 to 1974. Gerety was the oldest living Catholic bishop in the world at the time of his death at age 104.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Peter Gerety was born on July 19, 1912, in Shelton, Connecticut, the oldest of nine sons of Peter Leo and Charlotte Ursula (née Daly) Gerety.[2] Since there were no local Catholic schools, he received his early education at public schools in Shelton, including Commodore Isaac Hull School and the Ferry Street School.[3] He graduated from Shelton High School in 1929, and then worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Department of Transportation for three years.[2]

In 1932, Gerety began his studies for the priesthood at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut.[4] He continue his studies at the Saint-Sulpice Seminary in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, in 1934.[2]


On June 29, 1939, Gerety was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Hartford at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.[5] Following his return to Connecticut, he was assigned as a curate at St. John the Evangelist Parish in New Haven, Connecticut.[3] In addition to his duties at St. John's, he served as a chaplain at Grace-New Haven Hospital in New Haven.[3] In 1942, Gerety was appointed a curate at St. Brendan Parish and the director of Blessed Martin de Porres Center, both in New Haven.[4] The center was an interracial social and religious organization that ministered to the African American Catholic community.[3] In 1956, the center became St. Martin de Porres Parrish and Gerety was named its first pastor.[6]

During his tenure at St. Martin's, Gerety became an outspoken advocate for the American Civil Rights Movement and supported programs to eliminate poverty.[7] In 1963, he was chosen as coordinator and director of the Diocesan Priests' Conference on Interracial Justice.[7]


Bishop of Portland[edit]

On March 4, 1966, Gerety was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Portland and titular bishop of Crepedula by Pope Paul VI.[5] He received his episcopal consecration on June 1, 1966, from Archbisop Henry O'Brien, with Bishop Daniel Feeney and Bishop John Hackett serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.[5]

Due to the failing health of Bishop Feeney, Gerety became apostolic administrator of the diocese on February 18, 1967, assuming responsibility for the daily activities of the diocese.[7]Upon the death of Bishop Feeney on September 15, 1969, Gerety succeeded him as the eighth Bishop of Portland.[5]

During his tenure in Portland, he implemented what were perceived to be the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council by modernizing the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, through the removal of the high altar, cathedra, pulpit, and communion rail.[7] He also provided housing for the elderly and expanded the Diocesan Bureau of Human Relations.[7]

In 1969, Gerety led a campaign against a bill in the state legislature to legalize abortions[8] That same year, he called on Maine food retailers to stop selling California grapes, in support of the United Farm Workers' dispute with growers.[8] Gerety was one of 14 bishops in New England to sign a statement in 1973 endorsing a boycott of California-grown lettuce in a similar dispute.[8] He also defended the rights of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War and appealed to the Maine congressional delegation to modify the Selective Service Act.[8]

Archbishop of Newark[edit]

Following the retirement of Archbishop Thomas Boland, Gerety was appointed the third Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, on April 2, 1974.[5] His installation took place at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on June 28 of that year.[5] He was the first archbishop of Newark to actually live in the city of Newark; his predecessors lived in the Llewellyn Park section of West Orange.[9]

During his 12-year tenure in Newark, Gerety created the Office of Pastoral Renewal and began a ministry to divorced Catholics.[10] The Office of Pastoral Renewal evolved into RENEW International, an organization now based in Plainfield, New Jersey, that provides resources for small Christian communities in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and South Africa. Gerety established the Archbishop's Annual Appeal in 1975, and supported the charismatic and ecumenical movements.[10] He also established the Archbishop Gerety Fund for Ecclesiastical History to advance studies in ecclesiastical history, especially the history of Catholicism in the United States.[2]

In 1976, Gerety sent a letter to the Democratic National Convention to protest the party's platform on abortion, which he described as "the bloody horror of the callous elimination of hundreds of thousands of God's most defenseless little ones, our own flesh and blood."[10] That same year, he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on "U.S. Foreign Policy: A Critique from Catholic Tradition," and in 1977 he represented the United States Catholic Conference before the House Ways and Means Committee to offer his view on President Jimmy Carter's "Better Jobs and Income" proposal.[4]

A year prior to his resignation, the Archbishop addressed the charismatic covenant community known as the People of Hope, a branch of the Sword of the Spirit. In 1984, the Archbishop had asked People of Hope to submit statutes to bring them into a canonical relationship with the Archdiocese. The community responded positively. On December 8, 1985, Gerety addressed the People of Hope at length, informing them of the process they would be involved in over the next year to bring them into compliance with his expectations of a 'Catholic' organization, approved by the Archdiocese. The People of Hope however claimed they were not subject to his authority as they were members of the Sword of the Spirit, an umbrella organization of Covenant Communities out of Ann Arbor, MI. Robert Gallic, a 'coordinator' for the People of Hope, withdrew the 1984 statutes. Gerety's retirement in 1986 was viewed by many of us in the Sword of the Spirit as a victory. See the collection of official correspondence between the Archbishop, his delegate, the People of Hope and the Sword of the Spirit at [11]

Later life[edit]

Gerety submitted his letter of resignation as Archbishop of Newark to Pope John Paul II on June 3, 1986.[5] At that time, he declared,

"It is well known that a bishop must resign at the age of 75. I will be 74 years old next month and I told the Holy Father in my letter of resignation that for the good of God's Church and for my own peace of mind, I believe it is time of a younger man to take over the reins of office here in Newark. I have done my best and I am very happy now to step aside."[3]

He was succeeded by then Bishop Theodore McCarrick.[12] Gerety died in Totowa, New Jersey, on September 20, 2016, aged 104, and was the world's oldest living Catholic bishop at the time.[1][13]


On May 11, 2013, the Archdiocese of Newark settled two lawsuits by men who were abused as children by Carmen Sita, a priest at St. Aloysius Parish in Jersey City, New Jersey Five men were abused in the 1970's by Sita, who in 1982 pleaded guilty to sexual assault. Gerety then allowed Sita to legally change his name to Gerald Howard and move to Missouri. Gerety never notified the Diocese of Jefferson City about Sita's name change or his conviction. Sita then abused at least three more children in Missouri. The Archdiocese of Newark agreed to pay $650,000 to the five New Jersey victims and $225,000 to one Missouri victim.[14][15]

On May 11, 2021, a woman filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Newark. The plaintiff claimed that Gerety had sexually abused her starting in 1976 three or four times when she was five years old. Gerety had been bringing extra food to the family and babysitting the young girl. The New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program had investigated her claims, but did not find them credible. The program had offered her a $5,000 settlement, which she rejected.[16][17]


  1. ^ a b Mueller, Mark (September 21, 2016). "Former Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety, world's oldest Catholic bishop, dead at 104". Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Archbishop Gerety Lectures". Seton Hall University.
  3. ^ a b c d e Miele, Ward (June 27, 2007). "Happy Birthday Archbishop Gerety Archbishop Reflects on his Ministry". The Catholic Advocate.
  4. ^ a b c Miele, Ward (June 10, 2009). "Archbishop Gerety Marks Seven Decades in Priesthood". The Catholic Advocate.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety".[self-published source]
  6. ^ "St. Martin de Porres Church". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Most Rev. Peter L. Gerety, D.D." Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
  8. ^ a b c d Blau, Eleanor (April 3, 1974). "Archbishop Boland to Retire; Newark Post Going to Gerety". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Cook, Joan (June 27, 1974). "New Archbishop Is Settling In at Newark". The New York Times.
  10. ^ a b c "Most Reverend Peter L. Gerety, D.D." Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark.
  11. ^ "People of Hope - A Branch of the SOS - and It's Troubles | PDF".
  12. ^ "Theodore Edgar Cardinal McCarrick".[self-published source]
  13. ^ "World's Oldest Catholic Bishop Dies Age 104". Reuters. September 21, 2016. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  14. ^ "Newark archdiocese pays victims of priest allowed to change name". UPI. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  15. ^, Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for (May 10, 2013). "Newark Archdiocese pays $650K to settle sex abuse claims against former N.J. priest". nj. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  16. ^, Kelly Heyboer | NJ Advance Media for (May 11, 2021). "Former Newark Archbishop sexually abused 5-year-old in church rectory, lawsuit claims". nj. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  17. ^ "Lawsuit: Former Newark archbishop abused 5-year-old girl". The Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Portland
1969 - 1974
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Newark
1974 - 1986
Succeeded by