Diocese Warned Pastor about Aide
Top Priest at Catholic Parish in Schuylkill Haven Says He Was Told Rev. Yarrosh Had 'Personality Problems.' Yarrosh Was Charged Last Week with Having Child Pornography. Church Prays for Him
By Chris Parker firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morning Call [Schuylkill Haven PA]
May 17, 2004
The pastor of St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church in Schuylkill Haven told parishioners on Sunday he had been warned by the Allentown Diocese that the Rev. Ronald J. Yarrosh, former assistant pastor, had "personality problems."
The Rev. Michael J. Stone, pastor of St. Ambrose, told his flock he "did not have a good feeling" about Yarrosh, 56, who was arrested Wednesday after police said they found hundreds of child pornography photos, books, magazines, videotapes and DVDs in his rectory apartment. He was charged with child abuse for allegedly having the images of child pornography.
"I just simply watched and prayed," Stone said. He said the diocese's warnings about Yarrosh were non-specific. Yarrosh was moved to St. Ambrose in June 2002.
"I think what they were alluding to were his social skills," Stone said after the service. "A lot of it had to do with his sense of humor."
Stone said Yarrosh has an "extremely dry wit," and sometimes his humor would be misunderstood.
Diocese spokesman Matt Kerr said he could not address Stone's statement, but added, "The diocese is supportive of Father Stone's efforts to communicate with the members of his parish at this time."
Yarrosh, who was released on $50,000 unsecured bail and is in a mental health program in Philadelphia, has been relieved of his clerical duties. He was assigned to St. Ambrose in June, where he served on the advisory board of the parish grade school.
Stone told parishioners at early Mass that his initial reservations about Yarrosh prompted him to be vigilant.
He said he made sure Yarrosh's duties did not bring him into contact with children, and gave him "a lot of time off."
Stone told the parishioners that Yarrosh was not involved with any St. Ambrose child and is not accused of physical contact with a child.
"I can assure you he was never involved in any activity which was illegal or immoral with anyone in this community," Stone said.
During the service, clergy and parishioners prayed for Yarrosh.
"God is all-forgiving," Connie Lantry said after the service. "It's in God's hands now, and he is taking care of it."
Police said they discovered the pornographic materials as they searched Yarrosh's rectory apartment to investigate allegations of embezzlement.
Eventually, Stone said, he approached the diocese with his concerns about possible theft of church funds and pornography. Church leaders went to the police.
"I never imagined I would be going to the police barracks by someone who sits across the dining room table in the rectory," Stone said. "It was one of the hardest things I have ever done."
The suspicion of theft was bad enough, but the child pornography came as a shock, he said.
"No one would have anticipated child pornography," Stone said.
Those sitting in the spacious, modern church, many with young children, applauded Stone's remarks and later stood to pray for Yarrosh.
"Our church is a very forgiving community," parishioner Mary Ann Evitts said.
Stone, in remarks before Mass, said he hoped Yarrosh's experiences with the parishioners and his arrest "would help him change."
State police at Schuylkill Haven said the investigation started when Stone and Joseph Leeson, Allentown Diocese attorney, met with police on April 22 to report embezzlement of church funds.
Police searching Yarrosh's bedroom, library/sitting room and office at the rectory April 23 "encountered a voluminous amount of pornography" that included books and magazines with pictures of prepubescent children in various stages of dress, performing sex acts and in erotic poses, an affidavit says.
Police also searched Yarrosh's parish computer for financial data in the embezzlement investigation.
With a second search warrant, police seized 20 nudist colony magazines, 17 Asian/foreign pornographic magazines, more than 20 pornographic DVDs, 10 hardcover books and six soft-cover books with images of nude children and an accordion folder containing pictures of prepubescent boys and girls engaged in sex acts or erotic poses that had been printed from a computer, the inventory with the search warrant said.
Police say they also seized the parish computer's hard drive and found more than 250 images of underage children.On April 26, police got more search warrants for the rectory and a storage unit Yarrosh had at U-Rent-It in Hazle Township, Luzerne County, where "numerous additional pornographic material" was seized, police say.
Besides sexual abuse of children, Yarrosh was charged with criminal use of a communication facility for allegedly using the parish computer and Comcast Internet service to download the material.
Police said the investigation was continuing.
In the 1990s, Yarrosh was campus minister at Albright College in Reading and in 30 years of ministry had served churches in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Wilson, Reading and several Schuylkill County communities, typically staying one to three years.
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