Suspended Priest Sentenced for Sexual Tryst with Teen
By David Singleton
June 3, 2014
|MICHAEL J. MULLEN / TIMES-SHAMROCK The Rev. William Jeffrey Paulish, right, a suspended Diocese of Scranton priest, arrives at the Lackawanna County Courthouse on Tuesday. At left is the Rev. Paulish’s attorney, Bernard Brown.|
A suspended Diocese of Scranton priest who admitted meeting a 15-year-old boy for a sexual encounter will spend eight to 23 months in the Lackawanna County Prison.
The Rev. William Jeffrey Paulish, 57, of Blakely, told Judge Michael Barrasse he would like to change what happened Sept. 19 at the Penn State Worthington Scranton campus in Dunmore but he cannot.
“I should have known better,” the Rev. Paulish said.
In addition to handing down the eight- to 23-month jail sentence, Barrasse placed the Rev. Paulish on probation for two years and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service. The priest will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years under the Adam Walsh Act.
The Rev. Paulish was arrested after campus security discovered him with the teenager in the back of the priest’s 2009 Toyota Venza in a Worthington Scranton parking lot. The boy did not have pants on, and both he and the Rev. Paulish later said they had engaged in sex acts, police said.
The Citizens’ Voice does not identify victims of sexual assault.
The Rev. Paulish, who has been suspended by the diocese since his arrest, pleaded guilty Jan. 22 to a felony count of corruption of minors.
“I apologize to the diocese, to my family and friends and most especially to this young man,” said the Rev. Paulish, who appeared in court in a sports coat and tie.
Barrasse called it a difficult case, saying there was no indication the Rev. Paulish used his status as a member of the clergy to lure the victim into sexual activity.
He said he was sentencing the defendant as William Paulish, “not Father Paulish.”
The Rev. Paulish and the teenager met after the priest posted an advertisement on Craigslist. The Rev. Paulish told police after his arrest that he repeatedly asked the boy if he was 18.
Defense attorney Bernard Brown told the court the Rev. Paulish is not a predator who went looking for an underage victim but understands there are consequences for his behavior.
“This was an aberration of conduct. This was a mistake he is going to pay for,” Brown said.
Saying it “by no means excuses Mr. Paulish’s actions,” the attorney also said the priest has struggled with both substance abuse and his sexual orientation. He asked Barrasse to impose a sentence that would allow the defendant to continue to engage in therapy and alcohol abuse programs.
Ordained as a priest in 1988, the Rev. Paulish most recently served as assistant pastor at Prince of Peace Parish in Old Forge. Most of his prior pastoral assignments were at parishes in Luzerne County.
The diocese said in a statement it will continue to assess its obligations under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People regarding the Rev. Paulish’s status, “including permanent dismissal from the clerical state.” The charter is the set of procedures established in 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy.
In response to the sentencing, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L, called on the faithful of the diocese to join in prayer for the victim, his family and all those impacted by child sexual abuse.