Scranton Priest Arrested for Assaulting Minor on Christmas Morning

By Peter Cameron
The Times-Tribune
April 4, 2014

Scranton police arrested a priest Thursday for plying a 13-year-old girl with alcohol and touching her inappropriately after a midnight Christmas Mass in 1998.

Officers charged the Rev. Philip Altavilla, 48, a pastor at St. Patrick's Parish in Scranton at the time of the alleged crime, with indecent assault, criminal attempt to indecent assault and corruption of minors.

The reverend was suspended Thursday from his position as pastor of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Scranton, the bishop's seat, the Diocese of Scranton officials said in a statement.

"I am both angry and demoralized to think that, yet again, a priest has been involved in such inappropriate, immoral and illegal behavior," the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, said in the statement. "It is particularly distressing that the pastor of our Cathedral Parish, who is known to countless numbers of the faithful and has served in so many positions of trust and responsibility in the Diocese of Scranton, has betrayed that trust in such a manner."

The victim, who was a member of the St. Patrick's Parish, told police that the Rev. Altavilla gave her alcohol in the rectory after the midnight service, then offered to drive her home at about 3 a.m. Once in the car, he pulled her legs on his lap and began touching her feet and moving his hands up her legs until the victim attempted to escape, according to the criminal complaint. The priest then apologized and drove the girl home.

The Times-Tribune does not name victims of sexual assault.

The woman met with police Wednesday to report the assault. One day later, she called the priest while police listened in. He admitted to providing alcohol and to touching her, saying it was "inappropriate" and sexual to him, according to the complaint.

The Rev. Altavilla was arraigned Thursday and released on $75,000 unsecured bail.

He was ordained in 1992 and served as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Parish from July 1996 to March 2000.

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