Names of Removed Priests to Stay Secret

By Mark Guydish
Wilkes Barre Times Leader
June 28, 2002

SCRANTON - The Diocese of Scranton released its list of priest reassignments on Thursday, but the names of nine priests who have been relieved of their duties after being accused of sexual misconduct will be kept secret.

Bishop James Timlin has repeatedly - and unwaveringly - insisted he will not release the names of priests who committed misconduct if they had received treatment and had no reported relapses. He said he is trying to strike a balance between being open with the public and being compassionate toward the priests.

The nine priests face sanctions under a new policy adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 14. The policy requires priests guilty of sexual misconduct - regardless of when the incident occurred - to be denied all rights to practice or dress as a priest in public. They can celebrate Mass for themselves.

The policy calls for openness to restore public trust but does not require bishops to release the names of priests removed for past abuses.

Within days after the policy was announced, the diocese said several active priests would be affected, and that the sanctions would be carried out in conjunction with a routine announcements of reassignments and retirements. That announcement came Thursday with a list of 38 changes, but Orzel stressed that Timlin deliberately did not include the names of nine priests affected by the new rules in the list.

Four of those priests had been removed from service before the new policy was adopted. Five more faced removal as a result of the policy, but Orzel said she believed most, if not all, of those were actually removed before Thursday's announced changes.

Orzel also said that, to the best of her knowledge, all five of those priests were not active in parish ministries, where their departure would have been noticed by the public.

Thursday's announcements included changes at numerous Luzerne County churches, effective July 3:

At St. Boniface in Wilkes-Barre, assistant pastor the Rev. Christopher Sahd - also Bishop O'Reilly High School's director of religious formation - will leave to become secretary to the bishop and assistant pastor at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Scranton. One of three men to be ordained Saturday will replace Sahd at St. Boniface.

St. Aloysius Church in Wilkes-Barre will lose assistant pastor the Rev. Thomas Major, who will become pastor at the Church of St. Ann in Bentley Creek. The Rev. Joseph Sica, returning from a sabbatical, will replace him.

At St. Nicholas in Wilkes-Barre, assistant pastor the Rev. Peter O'Rourke will leave to become pastor at the Church of St. Michael in Canton. He will be replaced by the Rev. Lawrence Emmareddy, from the Diocese of Nellore, India.

The Rev. Donald Williams, current Diocesan Director of Vocations, will become pastor at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, Plymouth.

At the Church of St. Joseph, Wilkes-Barre, administrator the Rev. James Alco will become pastor. At the Church of Our Lady of Grace, Hazleton, administrator the Rev. Thomas Cappelloni will become pastor.

Several changes are set at the Churches of St. Nazarius and St. Mary in Hazle Township. Pastor the Rev. Joseph Bucolo becomes pastor emeritus. The new pastor will be the Very Rev. Gerard Safko, who also will remain as pastor at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Butler Township. And the new assistant pastor for all three churches will be the Rev. Augustine Poonelil, assistant pastor at the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Scranton.

At the Church of the Holy Redeemer, Harding/Falls, pastor the Rev. Thomas McCann will become pastor emeritus. The Rev. Thomas Shoback will leave the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Montoursville to be pastor at Holy Redeemer.

The Rev. Frank Homets, Seton Catholic High School's director of religious formation and assistant pastor of Church of St. John the Evangelist in Pittston, is taking a leave of absence for health reasons.

The Rev. Anthony Generose, assistant pastor at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Scranton, will become pastor at the Church of St. Mary and the Church of the Ascension in Conyngham Township. The Rev. Michael Zipay, the two churches' administrator, will leave to become pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Montoursville.

Generose replaces the Rev. Thomas Skotek, who was relieved of duty in April when new allegations emerged of misconduct that occurred decades ago.

Timlin has cited Skotek - a very popular priest - as a good example of why he opposed applying the new policy in all cases, new and old.

Skotek underwent treatment for an incident that occurred decades ago, and has performed well without complaint since, Timlin said. Many parishioners have expressed support and praise for Skotek.


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