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  Schuylkill DA Finds No Priests to Prosecute
Cori Says No Active Clerics Have Been Accused of Abuse. He Studies Diocesan Files

By Chris Parker
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
May 29, 2002

Schuylkill County's district attorney said Tuesday he has found no prosecutable cases of priests abusing children in files the Allentown Catholic Diocese opened to him, but will continue to look for "patterns of abuse of children."

District Attorney Frank Cori last week began examining 23 files on priests the diocese released to prosecutors in the five counties it covers. Cori said he reviewed seven of the nine files of Schuylkill County priests and looked at the files of priests in other counties.

He said he plans to review the remaining files this week.

"We're looking at these cases, even though they are beyond the statute of limitations, to see if there are any connections, any patterns of abuse of children," Cori said.

The files included those of Monsignor William Jones of Pottsville, who was dismissed by Bishop Edward P. Cullen in April over an accusation of sexual misconduct 20 years ago.

Cullen identified Jones in a letter to parishioners at St. Patrick Church.

Cori would not reveal details from the files, which he said include no active priests.

"We were assured by the diocese that none of the priests against whom allegations were made is still active," Cori said.

Further, none of the allegations falls within the statute of limitations, which gives adults until they are 23 to report abuse from their childhood, he said.

He said the cases date back to 1961.

"There are 41 years worth of files," Cori said.

Cori said earlier that one allegation was from a person who said he was abused in 1952.

"I would expect that someone who allegedly committed an act of abuse in the early 1950s would not be active or would be deceased," he said.

Previously, Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias and Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin also said they found no prosecutable cases in the files.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who initiated efforts to get the diocese to open the cases, said it will take him a month or two to review the files and interview witnesses.

Efforts Tuesday to reach Berks County District Attorney Mark Baldwin for comment were unsuccessful.

In the past two years, the diocese has dismissed or suspended six priests. One was dismissed in 2000 and four in February on allegations that they sexually abused children more than 20 years ago. With the exception of Jones, their names were not released.

Another priest was suspended in April over an allegation from 1995 that may be prosecutable.

Members of the clergy were not obligated to report child abuse until 1995, when the state's Child Protective Services Law was amended to include them.

The Allentown Diocese decided to make the files available to district attorneys after the pedophilia scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston became public in January.

The scandal surfaced after a court case there revealed that a pedophile priest had allegedly accumulated dozens of victims as he was shifted from parish to parish.

Since then, hundreds of priests have been removed from active ministry in the United States.

 
 

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