Bishop Pens Letter to Potential Victims to Come Forward
By Joseph Kohut
September 24, 2013
The Diocese of Scranton appealed to its faithful for help in the investigation of a priest accused of having sex with a 15-year-old boy.
A letter penned by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was read Sunday at each parish The Rev. William Paulish served, asking anyone with similar allegations against the priest to come forward.
"With sadness and a deep concern for you, I encourage anyone who may have been involved in or may be aware of any abusive situation involving (the Rev. Paulish) to immediately contact the Lackawanna County district attorney's office at 570-963-6717 or local law enforcement," Bishop Bambera wrote.
The diocese provided a copy of the bishop's letter to The Times-Tribune on Monday, but officials refused to answer questions about the Rev. Paulish's 14 reassignments and four leaves of absence over a 25-year career.
The Rev. Paulish, 56, of Blakely, was arraigned Friday after he was discovered in his red 2009 Toyota Venza, having just performed sex acts with a 15-year-old boy in a Penn State Worthington Scranton parking lot Thursday night, police said. Prosecutors would not comment Monday on whether the bishop's appeal had generated any tips for investigators.
"I can't really divulge," said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge. "The investigation is ongoing and that's really all I can say."
The Rev. Paulish's attorney, Bernard Brown, said he received a copy of his client's criminal complaint on Monday. The Rev. Paulish is scheduled for his first court appearance Wednesday, though the preliminary hearing will likely be rescheduled, due to the time needed to prepare a defense and arrange for an open courtroom, Brown said. He petitioned the court on Monday for a continuance.
Brown said he and his client look forward to presenting their case in court.
"As you know, I ask the public to reserve judgment until the point in time when we at least get the chance to challenge the evidence," Brown said.
According to police, the Rev. Paulish was read his rights and admitted in an interview that the teenager performed oral sex on him, and the two engaged in mutual masturbation. The teenager also admitted to the oral sex in an interview.
The Citizens' Voice does not identify victims of sexual assault.
After the arrest, the diocese suspended the Rev. Paulish's ministry and pledged to assist investigators. The bishop reiterated the pledge in his letter.
"Regretfully, I am painfully aware of the harm that the abuse of minors by some members of the clergy has caused," he wrote. "I am sorry for any way in which the Church, in particular its bishops, priests and deacons, have failed victims of child sexual abuse. I reaffirm my personal pledge as Bishop of Scranton to adhere to all civil and church laws when accusations of abuse are brought to my attention or to the attention of those who work most closely with me in diocesan leadership."
The Rev. Paulish was ordained in 1988 and installed as assistant pastor at Our Lady of the Snows in Clarks Summit from Sept. 9 of that year to June 19, 1991. The diocese declined to comment on his multiple reassignments and the nature of the Rev. Paulish's two years and five months of leave, divided into three medical leaves and one unspecified break.
"Bishop Bambera's practice has been to share a cleric's assignment history following his removal from ministry due to an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor," diocesan spokesman William Genello said in an email. "As such, in the case of [the Rev. Paulish], in addition to issuing a statement about the matter, the diocese also shared the cleric's assignment history and affirmed its commitment to cooperate fully with law enforcement's criminal investigation into this very serious and disturbing matter. In consideration of that commitment, and since it is an ongoing investigation, the diocese will not offer further comment until the investigation is complete."
Though the Rev. Paulish is under investigation, he has the full support of his family, his sister Bernice Calomino said.
In an interview, she recalled a brother that is highly intelligent and extremely humble. As a man, he is quiet and enjoys reading, playing the organ and the balalaika, a Russian folk instrument.
He wanted to be a priest since he was a young boy growing up in a very religious household, Calomino said. She said her brother could not have committed the crimes for which he is charged.
"I just hope all the truth comes out. That's all," she said.