Parishioners Support Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct

By Renie Workman
November 20, 2011,0,2808414.story

[with video]

Parishioners of one Roman Catholic church in Lackawanna County celebrated Sunday mass without their pastor who was removed from ministry after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Parishioners packed the pews at Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Catholic church in Jermyn, celebrating Sunday mass without their pastor.

Reverend Thomas Shoback was removed from ministry amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

"We're dealing with it the best that we can. It's very sad," said parishioner Mary Ann Mobley of Mayfield. "Can't believe it of him because he was so good."

Shoback had been the pastor at the church since 2006.

Last week, Diocese of Scranton officials said they received a report accusing Shoback of inappropriate contact with a child more than a decade ago when he served in Tioga County.

In his 34 years as a priest, Shoback has also served at parishes in Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe and Wyoming counties and was a faculty member at the former Bishop Hoban high school in Wilkes-Barre.

"I believe that Father Shoback is innocent until proven guilty and these are just allegations and we just have to wait and see, but overall I think the parishioners are praying for Father Shoback," said James Durst of Mayfield.

Father Brian Clarke presided over mass, and hoped to help the congregation deal with their emotions.

"They're just concerned, hoping for the best, but they say most importantly, they'll continue to pray," said Reverend Brian Clarke, Vicar General of the Diocese of Scranton. "It was the bishop's idea to make sure that somebody was here to make not so much an announcement, but just try to comfort the people and have them make some sort of sense of all this."

As the diocese and authorities investigate, parishioners said they support Father Shoback and continue to be faithful.

"I'm a member of this parish for almost 50 years and we go to church for God. I mean, Hail Marys for everyone right now. That's the best we can do. Father's in our prayers and we love him," said Peg Pidgeon of Jermyn.

"Even though we have this issue before us, people still have their faith. We had an outstanding turnout today, which shows that people come here for the church and for their religion," added Durst.

The brother of Father Thomas Shoback, Edward Shoback, was defrocked as a Catholic priest in 2009 after diocese officials said he admitted to improper contact with a minor.

Diocese officials add after the recent allegations against Father Thomas Shoback, counseling will be available for parishioners at the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary church hall from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday.

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