Local Priest Charged with Trying to Lure Four for Sex
Monsignor Stephen T. Forish Was Acquitted of the Same Charge in 1998. He Was Arrested Last Week in Greensburg, Pa.
By Meghan Smith
The Express-Times [Pennsylvania]
September 13, 2006
A 61-year-old Allentown Diocese priest acquitted of soliciting sex from a Bethlehem man in 1998 was arrested last week in western Pennsylvania on allegations he asked four people on a public street for sexual favors.
Monsignor Stephen T. Forish, who at one time was the diocese's pro-life coordinator, admitted Thursday to making inappropriate sexual comments to the victims Aug. 6, state police at Greensburg said.
In court records, state police said Forish approached the unidentified individuals about 1:10 a.m. near East Pittsburgh Street and North Westmoreland Avenue in Greensburg. A separate police report indicates one of the individuals was a male.
He used obscene language when attempting to solicit sex acts from the victims, according to police. Officers located Florish driving away from the area less than 20 minutes after the incidents were reported and stopped him, police said.
He was charged with harassment and disorderly conduct and released. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Nov. 2.
According to Allentown Diocese spokesman Matt Kerr, Forish, who was ordained in 1972, has been staying with family in McAdoo, Pa., following the August incident.
A man who answered the phone at Forish's McAdoo residence Tuesday said the monsignor was unavailable and abruptly hung up the phone.
Kerr said Forish had been working as a non-church affiliated psychologist in the western part of the state and living at a retreat at the time of his arrest.
Though he is still a diocesan priest, Kerr said, Forish no longer identifies himself as a member of the clergy and has not been involved in "active ministry" since he left St. Benedict Church in Berks County in 2002.
Kerr said Forish left the church to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology from Lehigh University that year.
Nearly a decade ago, the Northampton County District Attorney's office filed charges against the longtime priest based on a report from 23-year-old Angel Figueroa, an admitted heroin user, who claimed Forish had offered him money in exchange for performing a sexual act.
Figueroa, who was staying on the 1100 block of Mechanic Street in Bethlehem at the time, told police Forish pulled his car over near the home about 1 a.m. on Sept. 22, 1996, and propositioned him.
A jury deliberated the case for more than four hours in January 1998 before acquitting Forish of all charges. After the verdict was read, Forish thanked God, his attorneys and his supporters.
"No one who knew me ever believed I did it, and that was so wonderful," Forish said after the close of his 1998 trial.
According to Kerr, the diocese has been made aware of the new charges pending against Forish.
"The matter's in front of the courts now," he said. "So we're just monitoring the developments."
But the diocese should be doing more, said Juliann Bortz, organizer of the local branch of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which meets monthly in Allentown.
Bortz said by not taking a hard line approach against Forish and other priests accused of similar acts, the diocese is sending a clear message to victims of abuse that they're unprotected.
"If they truly mean that they want to protect us and they're sincere, then yes, they should take a harder stance," she said of the diocese.
The Allentown activist, who alleges she was abused as a student at Allentown Central Catholic High School, said by not holding priests accountable, the diocese appears not to have learned its lesson from past scandals.
Though she said she'd like the diocese to take punitive action against Forish if he's convicted of the charges, she doesn't believe it will happen.
"I can hope, and I can pray that they have the conscience to do something," she said. "Do I think they will? No."
Reporter Meghan Smith can be reached at 610-867-5000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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