Bishop: Removed Priest Was Evaluated Years Ago

By Mark Guydish
Wilkes Barre Times Leader
May 26, 2002

One of the two Scranton Diocese priests most recently removed from duty had undergone evaluation previously, Bishop James Timlin said.

In a wide-ranging interview, Timlin - who said he believes it's important to talk to the media when problems arise - offered some new details on the recent cases of the Rev. Thomas Skotek and the Rev. Christopher Clay

Skotek was removed as pastor of two parishes in Conyngham Township in April after a recent complaint of misconduct that allegedly occurred about 30 years ago. No charges or lawsuits have been filed.

Timlin said Skotek came under scrutiny several years ago when a different complaint was made, also alleging misconduct decades earlier. Skotek underwent a professional evaluation - as per diocese policy - and was returned to duty because "the evaluation was that he was not a predator, not a pedophile," Timlin said.

"We go by the recommendations they give us," Timlin said. "In fact, the people involved with the problem did not want him removed from the ministry."

Timlin said the decision to let Skotek return to a parish was similar to letting an alcoholic return to work after successful rehabilitation.

"We had priests who were alcoholics over the years, who underwent treatment, and who did a tremendous job afterwards," Timlin said.

Skotek's April removal stemmed from a new complaint by a different person - also alleging the incident happened long ago - Timlin said.

Timlin said Clay came under scrutiny as a result of an investigation by the Lackawanna County district attorney into two priests - the Rev. Eric Ensey and the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity - accused of misconduct with a minor while they resided at St. Gregory's Academy, an all-boy's school. The two priests belonged to the St. John Society, now located in Shohola, Pike County.

"The same person who filed the claims against those two priests, during the investigation police talked to this boy and he implicated father Clay," Timlin said.

The person who filed the complaint against Ensey and Urrutigoity alleges that, as part of that involvement, he attended a dinner with the Oratory of St. Philip Neri - another religious association - in Mount Pocono, Monroe County.

Clay was an Oratory member at the time. Timlin would not discuss many details about the case because it is under investigation, but said the student alleges alcohol was served at dinner and that some type of inappropriate contact occurred afterward, though Timlin said his understanding is that the victim is not sure about what was done by whom, because of the alcohol.

Clay, who was serving as chaplain at Bishop Hafey High School in Hazle Township, has admitted wine was served with dinner, but flatly denied other allegations, Timlin said. The fledgling Oratory has since been disbanded because it failed to receive the pope's approval.

Neither of those cases has resulted in police charges or civil lawsuits, Timlin said.

Two new lawsuits have been filed, both involving the Society of St. John and the College of St. Justin Martyr that was started by the Society. Both name Timlin as a defendant because he agreed to let the Society establish itself in the diocese.

One suit was filed by Jeffrey Bond, the college's head, who claims he had an oral contract with the society to work for them, at $60,000 per year, to establish the college, along with a Catholic village where the traditional Latin Mass is celebrated - something that requires Timlin's approval.

Bond said he gave up a tenured college teaching position in New Jersey because the Society and Timlin convinced him the Society would succeed in its sweeping plan, and that the society fired him without cause.

The second suit was filed by the college, which broke away from the Society after allegations of misconduct and financial mismanagement emerged last year. The suit contends the Society raised money using the college's name, but never gave it to the college. Bond said he believes the society raised $5 million.

Both lawsuits seek unspecified amounts for "losses and damages." Timlin said he is confident the diocese will win if the cases go to court, and he pointed out that the Society is a separate corporation.

"They include the diocese because they know the Society of St. John doesn't have any money," Timlin said.


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