Priest Faces Child Porn Charges

By Chris Birk
Scranton Times Tribune
March 18, 2005

A Diocese of Scranton priest was charged Thursday with downloading and viewing images of child pornography while staying at St. Ann's Church rectory in Tobyhanna.

The Rev. Virgil Bradley Tetherow, also known as Father Gabriel, 1219 Jackson St., Scranton, was arraigned Thursday morning before Magisterial District Judge Clancy Dennis on 10 counts each of sexual abuse of children and criminal use of a communication facility, both third-degree felonies.

The arrest came exactly two months after Pocono Mountain Regional Police began investigating child porn allegations surrounding the Tobyhanna church rectory. A man brought in to clean up the hard drives of the rectory computers discovered images of young men engaged in sexual acts on a computer used by the church secretary, the parish priest, the Rev. Michael Kloton, told detectives.

Father Kloton agreed to a voluntary search, and detectives removed the computer a day later.

Police initially discovered more than 10 images of children between the ages of 10 to 14 engaged in sexual acts or simulated sex acts on the secretary's computer. Days later, on Jan. 20, the parish priest turned over another computer suspected of containing illegal images, this one kept in the room used by Father Tetherow.

A founder of the Servants Minor of St. Francis, a traditional Catholic congregation created in 1999, Father Tetherow had been staying as a guest at the St. Ann's rectory since January 2004. The congregation, approved by the Diocese of Scranton, listed its headquarters as Father Tetherow's Scranton address.

The Servants Minor group collapsed in November 2003. Father Tetherow, 40, was then never given an assignment within the Diocese of Scranton, said spokesman Bill Genello.

On Jan. 31, Father Tetherow drove to Pocono Mountain police headquarters and admitted to downloading child porn from January to December 2004 on the secretary's computer as well as the one in his rectory room , according to the criminal complaint.

A search executed days later on the computer from Father Tetherow's room uncovered more than 10 images of children between the ages of 9 to 13 engaged in sexual acts or simulated acts.

He had been accessing the Internet with the user name "Father Gabriel," according to the complaint. Earlier this winter, Father Tetherow had been working at St. Anthony of Padua in West Orange, N.J., brought in by friend and pastor the Rev. John Perricone.

"I knew him to be an outstanding person," Father Perricone told the Newark Star-Ledger. "All of us are very, very shocked."

Father Tetherow was introduced to the congregation in early January, said St. Anthony's member Mary Brooks. Weeks later, parishioners were told Father Tetherow had been called back to the Diocese of Scranton.

"No one has said a word since," said Mrs. Brooks. "He was a very holy priest, he appeared. He was very liked, he gave very nice sermons. I find this very difficult to comprehend."

Mr. Genello said the Diocese of Scranton cooperated fully with police during the investigation.

"That a priest would be accused of having any involvement with child pornography is completely contrary to the life he has been called to embrace," the Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, bishop of Scranton, said in a prepared statement. "The church will not tolerate such behavior."

Judge Dennis scheduled an April 1 preliminary hearing for Father Tetherow.


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