Bishop " Unsettled;" Diocese Suspends Priest Charged with Sex Crimes, Pledges Support to Police

By Joseph Kohut
September 21, 2013

A priest charged with having sex with a 15-year-old boy was reassigned 15 times by the Diocese of Scranton over a 25-year ministry that grew out of a career counseling troubled youths.

The Rev. William Jeffery Paulish, 56, 450 Third St., Blakely, was appointed as a primary therapist at Lourdesmont, a facility for troubled teenage boys and girls, in December 1983.

The Rev. Paulish was caught by Penn State Worthington Scranton security in his red 2009 Toyota Venza with a 15-year-old Thursday night. The boy did not have pants on and both later admitted to performing sex acts, police said.

The Rev. Paulish was ordained in the Diocese of Scranton in 1988. His first assignment was as an assistant pastor at Our Lady of the Snows in Clarks Summit from Sept. 9, 1988, to June 19, 1991. Previously, he worked at Lourdesmont and at a guidance clinic in Massachusetts. Phone messages to Lourdesmont were not returned.

As a priest, he had five reassignments in his first 5½ years, ending up as chaplain at Little Flower Manor in Wilkes-Barre from Jan. 24, 1994, until July 4, 2000, the most stable period of his career, according to information provided by the diocese.

Over the next 13 years the Rev. Paulish was moved another nine times.

He spent two years and one month on three separate leaves of absence. Two were accounted for by the diocese as health-related. The reason for the other was not specified.

The diocese did not respond to an emailed request to explain why the Rev. Paulish was moved so frequently, and the reason for the unexplained leave. Efforts to reach diocesan community affairs manager Daniel Gallagher by telephone were unsuccessful.

In a news release, Mr. Gallagher said the Rev. Paulish was removed from his assignment as assistant pastor at Prince of Peace Parish in Old Forge, and he can no longer serve as a priest. He pledged the diocese's assistance to police investigating the Rev. Paulish.

"Upon being notified of this incident, the cleric was immediately removed from his assignment and his faculties to exercise priestly ministry were suspended," Mr. Gallagher wrote.

Penn State Worthington Scranton security guards thought the car suspicious when they saw it Thursday. It was around 9 p.m. and the red Toyota was parked near the tennis courts, so they called Dunmore police.

When police arrived, they discovered the teen was not wearing pants. At first, the Rev. Paulish claimed he had been meandering around the campus, stuck on a homily he was crafting. He met the boy by chance and tried to counsel him, as he was in emotional distress, he explained. While at Lourdesmont, the future priest's responsibilities included meeting with adolescents on a weekly basis to help them identify and deal with their problems, develop coping mechanisms and face daily challenges.

At Dunmore police headquarters later Thursday night, the Rev. Paulish changed his story.

He admitted posting an online advertisement in the "Casual Encounters" section of Craigslist looking for companionship, police said.

The teen emailed him anonymously and they agreed to meet in the parking lot. The priest told police he asked the teen three times if he was 18 years old. When looking at male pornography, he said he prefers men between 18 and 35 years old, but also admitted he has viewed "twink" pornography.

Police say "twink" pornography involves teen boys performing sex acts in varying degrees of nudity.

In the car, the priest and the teen both removed their pants and performed sex acts on each other, police said.

The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The teenager was interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Center of Northeast Pennsylvania and said he performed oral sex on the Rev. Paulish.

Lackawanna County detectives Chris Kolcharno and Justin Leri served three search warrants Friday. One was served on the priest's Dell computer and Droid Motorola Razr cellphone. Another was served to retrieve bodily fluids from the Toyota, police said. Another was served to collect DNA from the Rev. Paulish.

Scranton Bishop Joseph C. Bambera requested the faithful join him in prayer for the victim and those impacted by sexual abuse.

"I wish to acknowledge how unsettling this is to me personally and to countless others, that yet again a priest has been involved in such inappropriate, immoral and illegal behavior," Bishop Bambera said in a statement.

The Rev. Paulish is charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a person under 16, indecent assault of a person under 16, indecent exposure, corruption of minors and unlawful contact. He was sent to Lackawanna County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Lackawanna County district attorneys office and the diocese are both asking that anyone who may have had similar contact with Rev. Paulish come forward to investigators by calling 570-963-6717 or local law enforcement.



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