Accused priest on golf club roster
By Terrie Morgan-Besecker
September 08, 2018
A Diocese of Scranton priest receiving a monthly stipend to help him meet his basic needs is a member of a private golf club, according to a roster of club members.
J. Peter Crynes, 76, of West Pittston, has received a sustenance payment — currently $1,237.50 per month — since he was removed from the ministry in 2006 after five women alleged he molested them when they were teenagers. A sixth woman came forward in 2016.
A roster report at the Fox Hill Country Club in Exeter shows a listing for “Msgr J. Peter Crynes.” An anonymous source mailed a screen shot of the report to The Times-Tribune with a handwritten note: “Scranton Diocese stipends pays for private country club?” A second source confirmed the roster entry is accurate.
Crynes played golf at the course at least five times in 2018 and 16 times in 2017, according to entries made in SkyGolf360, an online site golfers use to track their progress.
Under Canon law, the diocese is required to provide minimal financial support to any priest who is removed from the ministry as long as he was not laicized, also known as defrocked. The payments are made only to priests who show they need financial support to meet basic needs such as food and shelter, according to the diocese.
A regular golf membership at Fox Hill costs $5,050 per year, while a social membership costs $1,180 and non-resident membership, $1,000, according to the club’s website. The club also offers a rate for clergy members, but the cost is not listed on the website. Regular and social members also must spend $250 per quarter on food and beverages at the club’s restaurant.
It is not clear what type membership Crynes has. The roster does not provide that information.
Crynes declined to comment to a reporter who went to his home Friday. Shane Bradley, general manager at Fox Hill, did not respond to emails or phone message seeking additional information.
Asked if the diocese reviews cases to determine whether a priest still needs financial assistance, William Genello, spokesman for the diocese, responded with an email that said only that the diocese is required to provide the payments. He did not address questions regarding how often the diocese reviews cases or whether it will look into Crynes’ case.
Michael Cefalo, a Pittston attorney who is a member of Fox Hill, said he has no issue with Crynes receiving the sustenance payment. Cefalo, a practicing Catholic, said he has known Crynes for more than 20 years and thinks he is a “great guy.”
Crynes is among 70 predator priests the diocese identified following the Aug. 14 release of a statewide grand jury report on sexual abuse within six dioceses in Pennsylvania. The report identified 301 priests, including 59 in the Scranton diocese.
Diocese records show that of the 70 priests it identified, at least 24 are still alive. Crynes is among 11 still living priests receiving the sustenance payments.
Crynes was ordained in 1967 and served in various positions, including several parishes in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. He last served at St. Therese Church in Shavertown, with a title of monsignor, from July 1994 to May, 2006,when he was removed.
According to the grand jury report, the diocese first became aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Crynes on March 2, 2006, when officials received a letter from a law firm representing a woman who said Crynes abused her from 1974 to 1977 starting when she was 17. The woman said Crynes kissed her while she was at a retreat. Over the next three years the abuse continued and included fondling, oral sex and intercourse.
The woman said she confronted Crynes about the abuse when she was a sophomore in college and he “laughed at her and told her that he wanted to continue even once she was married.”
Four other women came forward between March and June 2006 to report Crynes had improper sexual contact with them, including hugging and kissing. The diocese reported the cases to law enforcement, but no charges were filed.
The Rev. Joseph R. Kopacz questioned Crynes in 2006 about the claims two of the women made. He admitted the conduct and told the Rev. Kopacz he saw his physical behavior with women “as gestures of loving parental affection,” according to the report. The report also notes one of the women wrote to Crynes in 2002 to demand an apology. He wrote back and asked her to forgive him for the pain and trauma she experienced.
The diocese removed Crynes from the ministry in May 2006. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which reviews sexual abuse cases, did not act on his case until June 2011, when it sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance, according to the report.
A priest sentenced to a life of prayer and penance is barred from all public ministry and cannot present himself as a priest. He is “expected to dedicate his life to praying for victims and repenting of his past offenses,” according to the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops.