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Some accused priests still receive financial support from Diocese

Times-Tribune - 8/22/2018

Aug. 22--Some Diocese of Scranton priests accused of sexual misconduct who have not been laicized continue to receive a monthly stipend from the diocese to meet their basic needs, the Most. Rev. Joseph C. Bambera told The Times-Tribune during an interview Tuesday.

Bambera, Scranton's bishop, said canon law requires that any priest removed from ministry but not laicized, commonly known as being defrocked, be provided a "minimal sustenance" -- currently $1,237.50 a month, according to diocese spokesman William Genello.

The payments to the priests are among several issues Bambera discussed in the wake of a statewide grand jury report released last week that revealed 301 priests in six dioceses in Pennsylvania sexually abused more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the past several decades. The grand jury report lists 59 accused from the Diocese of Scranton; some names are redacted. The diocese released a list that includes 70 names, including two laymen.

Some of the matters Bambera addressed include his decision to refer former Bishop James C. Timlin's handling of abuse allegations to an independent review board; his own handling of cases and his decision to withhold releasing the list of accused priests until after the grand jury report was issued.

The continued financial support for abusive priests is a controversial issue. Bambera said he has no power to halt the practice.

Among the priests continuing to receive financial support is the Rev. Martin Boylan, who was suspended from the ministry in April 2016, based on allegations a then-18-year-old man made that Boylan abused him when he was 8 years old while at St. Vincent's camp in Honesdale. The Wayne County district attorney's office investigated the claims, but no charges were ever filed.

Boylan denies the allegation. His case is unique because he is challenging his suspension from the church. Pope Francis, who has the sole authority to laicize a priest, has not yet decided his fate.

"At this juncture he is permanently removed from parish life and the ministry, but he has not been laicized," Bambera said. "Given the pattern the Holy See is following and given (Boylan's) age, they will typically at this juncture impose upon him a life of prayer and penance. That is what they typically do in those instances."

It's unclear how many other priests are receiving payments.

Former Bishop Timlin's case also presents a unique situation. Bambera said the diocese's independent review board, which consists of three lay people, a priest and a religious sister, typically only investigates cases in which a priest is accused of sexual abuse.

Timlin has not been accused of sexual misconduct, but the grand jury report cited numerous cases in which he helped conceal the conduct of abusive priests. Bambera said he referred the matter to the board to help him evaluate Timlin's future with the diocese.

Timlin has been forbidden from publicly representing the diocese at any events while the investigation is ongoing, Bambera said. The board will help him decide if that ban should remain permanent. The report, which is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, will be publicly released, Bambera said.

"I wanted some objective lens into some of the decisions he made," Bambera said. "I thought the best place for me to go would be to these group of experts ... who are extremely candid and direct with their recommendations."

Asked if the board could also recommend Pope Francis impose further sanctions on Timlin, Bambera said it's possible.

"How far the Holy See would go in accepting a possible recommendation from them would be beyond my ability to comment," Bambera said.

His referral of Timlin's case to the board exemplifies his commitment to ensuring all cases are thoroughly vetted -- a commitment he said he made when he became bishop in April 2010 and immediately ordered a review of all abuse cases and began compiling a list of predator priests.

Bambera has been criticized for refusing to release the list until after the grand jury report, however.

Asked why the Diocese did not release the list of names years ago, Bambera said the review took a significant amount of time as officials went through hundreds of files with a "fine tooth comb." He noted the diocese did release the names to district attorneys of all 11 counties it covers in May 2016.

"We were seriously considering at that point releasing the list and making it public. Then in September 2016, the grand jury convened," he said. "Once the grand jury convened, I felt it was better to wait and release it in tandem with it."

Bambera said he continues to maintain a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse allegations. Only a handful of cases were reported under his tenure, according to the grand jury report. All the priests were immediately removed from the ministry while the cases were investigated, the report shows.

Bambera said he's hopeful his continued commitment will eventually help restore trust in the church. He noted each diocese in the state undergoes an audit by an independent agency each year which evaluates safety practices. That includes ensuring staff is properly trained to recognize abuse and that any new allegations are handled appropriately.

"I don't think you restore trust through a single gesture and you certainly don't restore trust through a gimmick," he said. "You restore trust when people somehow see your words reflect your actions."

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Diocese to investigate omissions from list

The Diocese of Scranton said it will investigate why several lay people who worked for the diocese and were charged with sexual offenses against children are not included in its list of clergy and lay people accused of abuse.

The diocese's list includes 70 people, compared to 59 people listed in the statewide grand jury report. The Times-Tribune identified at least three lay people who are not on the list:

David R. Yarros of Scranton, a former teacher at Sacred Heart Junior/Senior High in Carbondale, who pleaded guilty in 2005 and was given a six-month suspended sentence for having lewd conversations online with a student.

Mark Maroni of Scranton, a former teacher at St. Michael's School for Boys, who was sentenced in 2001 to 30 to 60 years in prison for molesting three students.

Robert G. Smith of Hazleton, a former principal at Bishop Hafey High School, who was charged in 2004 with statutory sexual assault. Information on the outcome of his criminal case was not available Tuesday.

The Most. Rev. Joseph Bambera, bishop of the diocese, said he was unaware of the claims against the men until notified by a reporter Tuesday. He said any failure to include the men was not intentional. The diocese will review the cases and try to determine why they were not included.



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