Diocese Knew of Liberatore Woes

By Erin L. Nissley
Citizens Voice
November 8, 2007

A Scranton Diocese staffer responsible for supervising priests said Wednesday he and other church officials knew about a former priest's questionable relationship with a young man in the late 1990s but did not remove him, though he said decisions of that nature were solely the bishop's.

The third day of a federal civil trial against the Diocese of Scranton and former priest Albert M. Liberatore Jr. featured testimony from Monsignor Joseph Bambera, the former vicar of clergy for the Diocese of Scranton. Also taking the stand Wednesday was a 33-year-old man whose relationship with Liberatore led to a decision by church officials to move him to another post.

The suit, brought by a man referred to as "John Doe" in court filings, claims Liberatore sexually abused him from 1999 to 2002, beginning when he was 14. At the time, Liberatore was the pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Duryea.

Liberatore, now 42, pleaded guilty in 2005 to sexually abusing the boy in Luzerne County and New York.

The suit also names the diocese, Sacred Heart, retired Bishop James C. Timlin, and the Rev. Joseph R. Kopacz, the diocesan vicar of priests when the abuse occurred, for allegedly failing to heed warnings about the abuse and for not removing Liberatore.

Bambera spent hours on the stand, explaining why Liberatore was not immediately removed from the Catholic Church when suspicions arose in the late 1990s about a peculiar relationship he had with another young man he met while teaching a class at the University of Scranton.

Liberatore, then in charge of recruiting young men to join the priesthood, was living and working at the now-defunct St. Pius X Seminary in Dalton. Faculty members and seminarians there were aware the young man spent the night in Liberatore's rooms at the seminary and accompanied him on overnight trips.

The man, now 33, also took the stand Wednesday and said Liberatore sexually abused him during their relationship. "I was fairly shocked and didn't know how it had come about," the man said. "I tried to forget about it."

As a matter of policy, The Citizens' Voice does not publish the names of alleged sexual abuse victims.


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