Priest Accused of Molesting May Go to Trial
The Pottsville Pastor Allegedly Fondled a 17-Year-Old Hitchhiker

Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
August 29, 1997

A Pottsville priest charged with the indecent assault of a 17-year-old boy he picked up hitchhiking will face action in Schuylkill County Court.

Thursday, an attorney for the Rev. James J. Mihalak, pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace, Catholic Church, waived a preliminary hearing on the charge to court.

Mihalak, 46, remains suspended from church duties, according to Deacon John W. Murphy, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Allentown.

"There's been no change. He's been removed from all active ministry," Murphy said.

According to court documents, Mihalak fondled the youth during a meandering drive through Schuylkill County the afternoon of June 20.

Police said the youth was hitchhiking from near the Cressona Mall, North Mannheim Township, when Mihalak picked up the boy and repeatedly complimented his muscle tone and felt his arms, legs, stomach and chest while they drove.

He twice asked the boy if he wanted him to pull off the road but the youth declined, saying he wanted to go home, police said.

On a back road outside Tuscarora, he put his hand in the youth's pants, according to police.

When Mihalak saw the boy crying, he turned the car around and the teen got out on Route 209 near Tuscarora.

The charge against the well-liked priest rocked his parishioners, many of whom spoke in his defense.

Before being assigned to Queen of Peace, Mihalak was pastor at St. Ann's Catholic Church, Frackville, and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, Shenandoah.

While at St. Stanislaus, he was an instructor at Cardinal Brennan High School, Fountain Springs, and also was part-time chaplain at Frackville State Prison.

In 1983-84, he was principal at Pius X High School, Roseto, and before that taught at the school for six years.

A court date has not been set.


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