Diocese of Scranton Priest Faces Child Pornography Charges

By Jeremy G. Burton
Standard Speaker
October 20, 2009


Diocese of Scranton priest who once served in the Hazleton area was charged Monday with 17 counts of sexual child abuse for allegedly having files of naked, underage boys on his computer.

The Rev. Robert Timchak, 43, most recently of Milford, turned himself in to a Pike County district judge and was released without bail on his own recognizance, state police said.

An attorney for the priest, John Petorak, said Timchak didn't physically violate any children or personally create the pornography he is charged with possessing.

"We're just going to let it play out in the court system," Petorak said. "He admitted to it. He didn't touch anybody."

The investigation into Timchak began in December when an anonymous source sent the diocese a letter with explicit photographs of young boys and comments found by searching an e-mail address on the Internet, according to state police. That e-mail address was also listed on a St. John Neumann bulletin as belonging to Timchak.

The priest also faces a charge of tampering and fabricating evidence for allegedly trying to delete the graphic files before police searched his computer.

Since April, Timchak has been on a leave of absence from his duties as assistant pastor of St. John Neumann in Lords Valley and St. Vincent de Paul in Milford, according to a diocese statement. Petorak said the priest has been living at St. John Vianney Center, a Catholic counseling facility in Downingtown.

In a prepared statement, the diocese said it has cooperated with law enforcement, and church officials had no prior indication of the priest's alleged conduct.

"The diocese is saddened by the situation regarding Father Robert M. Timchak," the statement said. "These charges are distressing and would be very unfortunate if proven true."

Timchak has served in the diocese since 1992, starting in Wilkes-Barre at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

After stints directing religious formation at Seton Catholic High School in Pittston and Bishop Hoban High School in Wilkes-Barre, Timchak was assigned to Hazleton, where he became a controversial figure in 2006.

As pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish, and Transfiguration Parish in West Hazleton, Timchak was outspoken about his disillusionment with the diocese's closure of Transfiguration School.

"Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money, and when the church puts money before everything else, it really is going against the message of Jesus," Timchak in 2006 told the Times Leader newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, for which he wrote a regular faith column.

"Father Bob," as known in his newspaper column, subsequently took a yearlong leave of absence before being assigned to Pike County. During his leave, the diocese said, he worked for the Luzerne County Probation Office.

With his parishioners, Timchak built a reputation as an educator who focused on the parish youth. At Transfiguration, he started a children's ministry and spearheaded trips to see the pope in Toronto and Germany, according to the church Web site.

In interviews with the Times Leader, Timchak described himself as "an early Pope John Paul II priest," who was disturbed by increasing "rigidity" within the diocese.

"I'm wondering where our place is," he said in 2006. "This is not the church I remember."

Another time, he spoke about a pain within the priesthood created by the Catholic sex-abuse scandals.

"If (the abuse) is by your brother priest, it hurts you," he said. "Priests are like policemen. We have a common bond."

"Fortunately," Timchak continued, "there aren't as many stories that come out now, but whenever one does, it hits you, because that's what you are and that's what you've given your life to."

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.

LAURA LEGERE, staff writer, contributed to this report.



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