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Cleric's McAdoo Residence Has Been Watched, Chief Says
Borough Police Were on Guard with Parents' Complaints That Forish Tried to 'Lure' Children

By Kristin Casler
Morning Call
October 4, 1996

Six parents in McAdoo, Schuylkill County, have complained since 1990 that Monsignor Stephen Forish attempted to "lure" their children, prompting police to keep him under surveillance when he's in the borough, Police Chief Joseph Litchko said yesterday.

Forish, a McAdoo native who owns a house there, was charged last month with seeking a minor for sex in South Bethlehem. He has been removed as pastor from Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic parish in East Allentown pending the outcome of the case.

Litchko said he's filed no charges against Forish because parents refused to go beyond making a complaint.

But Litchko wouldn't let it drop. For six years, his department has kept watch on Forish's 311 E. Grant St. home for signs of activity and even enlisted volunteers, including deliverymen, to help. When he visited, which he regularly did, the police knew.

"We were just suspicious of his activities, that's all," Litchko said.

Litchko would provide few details yesterday of his investigation. At least one of the complaints alleged indecent contact with a juvenile and could have resulted in a charge, Litchko said. The others involved Forish luring children, though the chief would not say how.

All the victims were under 17 and none of the complaints is recent.

Litchko refused to release police reports detailing the complaints, citing confidentiality, juvenile victims and the fact that it's an ongoing investigation.

"If the youths come forward and want to testify, we can use them," he said.

Because parents did not want to expose their children to the criminal process, Litchko said he didn't even contact Forish's parish or the diocese. He said he had another reason for refraining, but he would not elaborate.

Deacon John Murphy, diocese spokesman, said the diocese absolutely would have wanted to know to head off any behavior problems.

"Just say something to somebody, that maybe there is a problem," Murphy urged.

Bishop Thomas Welsh has named a temporary administrator at Our Lady Help of Christians. Forish's duties as diocese pro-life coordinator also have been reassigned.

Murphy said it is not clear where Forish, 51, will go next.

"This would all have to be resolved to the fullest before he'd be assigned anywhere," Murphy said.

Forish's preliminary hearing on charges of promoting prostitution and criminal attempt to corrupt the morals of a minor are scheduled for Oct. 15 before District Justice Nancy Matos. His attorneys, John Spirk and Anthony Blasco, did not return calls yesterday. Forish could not be reached for comment.

Murphy said Forish, not the church, is paying for his legal assistance.

Bethlehem police discounted rumors that the 22-year-old man Forish allegedly solicited for sex and asked to locate boys who would have sex has left town. His sister, Milagras Figueroa, confirmed he is in town and has received notice of the hearing.

At the parish school, only one parent has removed a child from school as a result of Forish's arrest, said Bob Smith, president of the Home School Association.

He emphasized that the teachers and students are innocent and are being unfairly stigmatized by the publicity. He also said he supports Forish's statement that he's innocent until proven guilty.

"He's really turned that school around," Smith said. "It almost closed a few years ago. The parishioners, senior citizens and parents believe him."

 
 

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