$50,000 bail set for New Jersey priest facing sex abuse charges in Western Mass.

Following the court hearing, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said in a statement, “There is no greater purpose for law enforcement than the protection of children. We continue to ask the public to please report any instances of abuse, both past and present, for appropriate investigation. Crimes, such as those alleged, should not go unreported or unpunished.”

Kuffner, who was removed from ministry last year when the allegations surfaced, pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual assault. A bail hearing was set for Dec. 17. He was indicted by a grand jury and was arrested in his home state on Nov. 20 on a fugitive warrant, according to a spokesman for Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.

Kuffner, 72, had been held without bail in Toms River, New Jersey since his arrest.

The allegations date back to Kuffner’s position as a teacher, not a priest, according to a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metchuen in New Jersey.

“Once we learned of the allegations, we immediately reported them to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which then conducted an initial investigation and subsequently referred the matter to the Hampden County Prosecutor’s Office in Massachusetts,” said Anthony P. Kearns III, spokesperson and chancellor of that diocese.

That diocese, where Kuffner was ordained and raised, removed the priest from ministry in February 2018 after three people accused him of sexual abusing them as minors more than three decades ago when Kuffner was a Catholic school teacher on Staten Island, New York.

He was ordained in 2002.

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