Pastor Quits Amid Sex Probe
St. Therese's Monsignor Crynes Investigated

By Dave Janoski
Times Leader
May 31, 2006

KINGSTON TWP. Parishioners at St. Therese's Church in Shavertown left Mass in tears over the weekend after diocesan officials announced Monsignor J. Peter Crynes had resigned as their pastor amid allegations of "sexual misconduct."

The alleged misconduct, reported by two women, happened before Crynes came to St. Therese's 12 years ago, the Diocese of Scranton said. Crynes has been a priest in the diocese for nearly 40 years, serving mostly in Lackawanna County.

In its statement to parishioners during Saturday and Sunday Masses, the diocese left key questions unanswered, including the ages of the women when the alleged misconduct occurred, the date, location and character of the alleged misconduct and the nature of the investigation -- whether it was being conducted by the diocese itself or law enforcement.

Diocesan spokesman William Genello declined to fill in any of those blanks Tuesday.

Parishioners described Crynes, 64, as a kind, committed pastor who emphasized that members of the congregation had a calling to serve others inside and outside of St. Therese's and expanded their opportunities to do so.

"He was an absolutely outstanding priest and he was an excellent pastor and we were lucky to have him," said Mary Paley, director of liturgical ministries at St. Therese's. "His devotion to the church was so obvious."

Florence Hozempa, a Eucharistic minister who helps serve Communion at Masses, said Crynes worked "to have everyone in the church involved in some sort of ministry and service."

The church, one of the diocese's largest with about 4,400 members, offers more than 30 "ministries" for parishioners, from helping new parents prepare for baptism to baking bread for Masses.

"He energized all that," Hozempa said. "To me, some of the energy seems to be gone. We are mourning. We are all in mourning right now."

Crynes, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has moved out of the rectory behind the church at South Pioneer Avenue and Davis Street, according to a statement released by the diocese.

Genello said the diocese learned of the allegations when the two women recently "came forward." But he said he didn't know if they contacted the diocese directly or through a third party. The diocese's statement said the women have been interviewed and offered counseling and an opportunity to meet with Bishop Joseph F. Martino.

Genello said he believed Crynes had met with Martino. The diocese's statement said he "was afforded and will continue to have an opportunity to be heard."

Crynes remains a priest, but he has no assignment, said Genello, who declined comment on Crynes' whereabouts.

The Rev. Edward R. Scott, a retired priest, will administer the parish until a new, permanent pastor can be named.

Genello declined comment on whether a civil suit has been filed in the matter.

The diocese has spent more than $800,000 in legal fees, settlements and medical and counseling costs for victims in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct by its priests since 1950. Twenty-five priests were accused of misconduct between 1950 and 2002, the diocese said two years ago, and allegations against 15 of those priests were deemed to be credible.

The diocese is currently fighting two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Scranton by men who claim they were abused by priests when they were minors. Each of those priests pleaded guilty to child-abuse charges in criminal court. One, who is now deceased, pleaded guilty in an unrelated case. The other priest pleaded guilty to molesting the former altar boy who is now suing him and the diocese.

Crynes, a Scranton native, was ordained in 1967. He formerly served as assistant pastor of St. Patrick Church in White Haven and Holy Rosary Church in Scranton and as pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Montdale.

He had also been assistant director of Camp St. Andrew, a 600-acre children's summer camp near Tunkhannock; assistant director of the former Our Lady of Fatima Retreat Center in Elmhurst; professor at the now-closed St. Pius X Seminary in Dalton; director of religious formation at Bishop Hannan High School in Scranton and chaplain at St. Joseph's Children and Maternity Center, now St. Joseph's Center, in Scranton.

He came to St. Therese's in 1994, where he had a reputation as a "friendly, gracious" pastor who "got all the congregation so involved," said Rosemary Isopi, a Times Leader advertising account executive who attended the church.

Parishioners noted Crynes' absence on the weekend of May 20 and 21. But they weren't told the reason for it until this past weekend, when Monsignor Joseph C. Bambera, the diocese's episcopal vicar for the Central Pastoral Region, addressed the congregation at each Mass.

Bambera told them he could not take specific questions because of an ongoing investigation. He announced that counselors would be available for parishioners after today's 9 a.m. Mass and at 7 p.m. in the parish hall.

"In my heart, I hope it didn't happen," Isopi said of the allegations against Crynes. "What a ruination of a life and a vocation that is."

Times Leader Associate Editor/Investigative Dave Janoski can be reached at 829-7255.


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