List of Allentown Diocese Priests Publicly Accused of Sexual Abuse or Other Offenses
June 21, 2018
|Monsignor John Mraz, former pastor of St. Ann's Catholic Church in Emmaus, pleaded guilty in 2017 to possessing child pornography and was sentenced to six-to-23 months in jail. He is no longer in ministry (APRIL BARTHOLOMEW / THE MORNING CALL)|
These priests have been accused in court cases or published reports over the past two decades. This listing includes summaries of their cases and their status with the Allentown Diocese.
The Rev. Thomas Bender, former pastor of Most Blessed Sacrament in Bally, was sentenced to seven years' probation in 1988 for molesting a teenage Pottsville boy in the 1980s. A civil case with the boy and his family was settled by the diocese out of court. Bender was laicised, or defrocked.
Monsignor Lawrence J. Bukaty, former pastor of St. Katharine Drexel in Carbon County, was charged with public lewdness after a park ranger saw him fondling himself on a nude New Jersey beach in 2008. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and received probation. The diocese at the time said he was sent for treatment. He is no longer in ministry.
Monsignor Bernard Flanagan was removed from ministry in 2010 when a review board set up by the diocese found credible allegations that he sexually abused a minor in the mid-1980s while serving at Reading Central Catholic High School. The diocese informed police.
Monsignor Stephen Forish, former director of the diocesan Pro-Life Office, was charged with and then acquitted of soliciting boys for sex in Bethlehem in 1996. While facing harassment charges in 2006 for allegedly asking a man in Greensburg for "sexual favors," Forish died in a one-car crash in Carbon County. At the time, he was working as a psychologist after removing himself from active ministry.
The Rev. Francis J. Fromholzer, who served at a number of parishes, including Holy Ghost, Bethlehem, St. Peter's, Coplay and St. Francis of Assisi, Allentown, was accused in a lawsuit of allegedly kissing and fondling Juliann Bortz of Lower Macungie Township while she was a student and he was a teacher at Allentown Central Catholic High School in 1965. He agreed to be removed from ministry in 2002.
The Rev. James Gaffney was accused by Diana L. Vojtasek in a 2004 lawsuit of repeatedly molesting her in his car and office at Reading Central Catholic High School, where Gaffney was vice principal, beginning in 1990. He was defrocked.
The Rev. Edward R. Graff, who left the Allentown Diocese in 1988, was jailed in Texas in October 2002 on charges of molesting a teenage boy. State Rep. Mark Rozzi said Graff abused him at Holy Guardian Angels parish in Reading in the 1980s. Graff died at 73 in jail in November 2002.
The Rev. Richard Giuliani, who left the priesthood in 1977, was accused in a lawsuit of allegedly sexually abusing Patricia Beaumont, now of Lancaster County, while she was a student at Notre Dame High School, Bethlehem Township. Beaumont alleges Giuliani visited her in college in 1975, took her out for dinner and asked her to marry him. When she refused, Giuliani never contacted her again, according to a lawsuit.
The Rev. Leo Houseknecht was pastor of Immaculate Conception, Kelayres, Schuylkill County, when he died at 53 in 1990. In a lawsuit, Patricia Beaumont alleges Houseknecht and Monsignor William E. Jones spoke to her using crude/sexual language and Houseknecht inappropriately hugged her while visiting her family in her home.
Monsignor William E. Jones, a former vicar who served as pastor of St. Patrick's, Pottsville, from 1983 to 2002. In a lawsuit, Scott Greis of Schuylkill County alleges Jones sexually abused him on numerous occasions, beginning in 1978 while Jones was at St. Vincent de Paul, Minersville. On one occasion, according to the lawsuit, Jones and another priest allegedly abused Greis and several other boys on a trip to Jones' home in Tower City, Schuylkill County. In April 2002, he was removed from ministry and has since died.
The Rev. Michael S. Lawrence, accused in a lawsuit of allegedly molesting a 12-year-old boy at St. Catharine of Siena, Mount Penn, Berks County, in the early 1980s. He was a member of the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal in February 2002 when he was dismissed by Bishop Eward P. Cullen. At the time, he was chaplain to the nuns at the Carmelite Monastery in Coopersburg. He was removed from ministry before his death.
The Rev. Luis A. Bonilla Margarito, who was chaplain at Reading Central Catholic High School and pastor of St. Joseph in Reading, is alleged in a 2010 lawsuit to have seduced a 17-year-old student at the school and impregnated her when she was 18. He was removed from ministry, though the Allentown Diocese appealed the lawsuit because the baby was conceived when the girl was 18. He has been defrocked.
The Rev. James McHale, who was pastor of Sacred Heart in Bath, ran Catholic Charities and served on the White House Conference on Aging, was accused by Sharon Tell in a 2009 lawsuit of sexually molesting her for 20 years beginning in 1964 when she was 12 and he was assigned to her parish, Notre Dame in Bethlehem. McHale died in 1997.
The Rev. Francis McNelis was accused by Vincent Catizone in a 2005 lawsuit of sexually abusing him for two to three years beginning in 1966 when Catizone was 10 and an altar boy at St. Joseph's in Girardville. McNelis died two months after the court found the allegations exceeded the statute of limitations.
The Rev. James J. Mihalak, former pastor of Mary Queen of Peace, Pottsville, was charged with indecent assault of a 17-year-old boy he picked up hitchhiking in the Tamaqua area in 1997 and put on probation for two years. He is no longer in ministry.
Monsignor John Mraz, former pastor of St. Ann's in Emmaus who also had served as a chaplain at Lehigh University and a theology teacher at Allentown Central Catholic High School, pleaded guilty in 2017 to possessing child pornography and was sentenced to six-to-23 months in jail. He is no longer in ministry.
The Rev. Cletus Onyegbule, who served at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bethlehem Township, was accused of grooming a girl for a sexual relationship that began when she was 18. Onyegbule acknowledged having an inappropriate relationship with the woman. He was removed from ministry and criminally investigated, but no charges were filed. He is no longer in ministry.
The Rev. Gabriel Patil, a member of the Barnabite religious order who served at Bethlehem Catholic High School, was accused in two 2004 lawsuits of sexually abusing children in 1978 ó a 9-year-old girl and two boys ages 6 and 7. He has no association with the diocese.
Monsignor Dennis A. Rigney, one-time director of Catholic Charities and of Catholic Social Agency, was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl during a swimming trip at Lake Wynonah, Schuylkill County, in the late 1970s. He retired as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Allentown, because of health problems. He is no longer in ministry.
The Rev. Joseph A. Rock, former pastor of St. Francis de Sales in Mount Carbon, Schuylkill County, was sued in 1994 by a former altar boy who accused him of molestation over a three-year period. Rock denied the charges. The outcome of the suit hasnít been released. Rock has since been defrocked.
The Rev. John Paul Sabas was accused of sexually abusing David Cerulli, an altar boy of St. Francis of Assisi in Allentown, where Sabas was assistant pastor, in 1964. In 1989, Cerulli sued the diocese, settling out of court for $40,000. Sabas died at 71 in 1996.
Daniel M. Shields Jr., former track coach at Nativity BVM High School in Pottsville, pleaded guilty in 2007 to four counts of sexual abuse of children and other charges for molesting a girl in 2005 as she exercised at the school and videotaping her and two others. He was sentenced to 18 months to four years in state prison. In a civil case, he was ordered to pay the victim $751,257 in damages.
The Rev. William J. Shields was accused in a 2004 lawsuit of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in 1972 after a bingo game at St. Annís in Lansford. Shields died in 2000.
The Rev. David Soderlund admitted in court documents to sexually abusing a boy in 1980 while serving as pastor of St. Joseph's, Summit Hill. He was removed from ministry, underwent counseling and was told to have no contact with children. In 1986, he became director of pastoral care at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, Pottsville, and was later removed after reportedly having children assist at Mass as altar servers. Soderlund has been defrocked.
The Rev. Bruno M. Tucci, former pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Nesquehoning, was removed from active ministry in 2002 amid sex-abuse allegations and defrocked in 2007. In 2013 he was charged in Maryland with sexually assaulting a boy in 1981. The charges were later dropped.
The Rev. Gregory Uhrig was removed from his New Jersey church amid allegations in 2010 that he sexually assaulted a minor 30 years earlier in the Allentown Diocese, where he held many positions, including chaplain at Cedar Crest and Muhlenberg colleges. He denied the allegation.
The Rev. Andrew A. Ulincy was removed from ministry in 2010 when a review board set up by the diocese found credible allegations that he sexually abused a minor in 1981 while serving at Ss. Simon and Jude in Bethlehem. The diocese informed police. He died in 2016.
The Rev. Ronald Yarrosh was charged in 2004 with embezzling more than $23,000 from St. Ambrose in Schuyllkill County, where he was assistant pastor, and keeping hundreds of child pornography images on a church computer. He was sentenced to four-to-10 years in state prison and defrocked.
Monsignor Francis Nave, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Bath, was accused in a lawsuit in 2018 of talking a teen to whom he was providing online counseling into disrobing and conducting sex acts. The diocese alerted law enforcement and removed him from active ministry, pending the results of an investigation.
Sources: Allentown Diocese, lawsuits, The Morning Call archives