Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse More Than a Decade after His Death

May 14, 2009

[with video]

A priest who passed away more than a decade ago is now accused of the unthinkable, sexually abusing one of his parishioners over a 20 year period. On Wednesday, the alleged victim spoke publicly for the first time. WFMZ's Jackie Shutack has the story.

[ Jackie Shutack's 10 PM Report ] REPORTER: For more than 2 decades.. Sharon Tell's family was close with Father James McHale. He and the Tell family are pictured here visiting with Pope Paul VI in 1972. It was during this time that Sharon.. now 56.. claims she suffered through the horror of abuse. She alleges it started when she was 12.. and lasted for 20 years. >> JEFF ANDERSON/TELL'S LAWYER: "Raped, violated, repeatedly by this priest." >> SHARON TELL/ALLEGED VICTIM: "I really don't know what I thought, I just wanted to be pretending like I was sleeping because I was afraid that if he knew that I knew what he was doing, what would happen." >> REPORTER: Tell says much of the alleged abuse happened right here in Bethlehem. She says she and her family were parishioners here at Notre Dame Church. Her father tells us he never suspected the abuse was going on, he says the family was extremely close with Father McHale. >> REPORTER: So close that.. even when the family move to Delaware in 1966.. Father McHale would continue to visit them. Standing outside the Allentown Catholic Diocese Headquarters Wednesday afternoon.. Sharon spoke publicly - for the first time. >> JEFF ANDERSON/TELL'S LAWYER: "The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages." >> SHARON TELL/ALLEGED VICTIM: "It feels like the whole world has been lifted off my shoulders." >> REPORTER: They're taking legal action now.. because of a law in Delaware that gives sex abuse victims a window past the statute of limitations to file suit. The Diocese released this statement, saying, "The Diocese has not seen a copy of this lawsuit and thus cannot comment specifically. The allegations made in the lawsuit announced today are about incidents from at least 25 years ago and reference a priest who has been deceased for almost 12 years." >> REPORTER: Tell says she hopes that her coming forward will encourage other people to do the same. In Allentown, Jackie Shutack, 69 News.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.