With his blessing? Report: Timlin knew about dozens of abuse allegations

By Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence - [email protected]
Bishop Emeritus James Timlin arrives at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton for a Thanksgiving mass in his honor in 2016. - Times Leader file

Of the 59 Scranton Diocese priests identified among 301 child-abusing clergy across Pennsylvania by a state grand jury report released last week, records show Bishop Emeritus James Timlin had knowledge of more than two dozen cases before and during his nearly 20-year tenure.

The allegations of abuse are shocking enough in themselves, including rape, sexual assault, underage drinking and an abortion. How they were handled — or in many cases suppressed — by church leaders over decades was a central focus of the investigation.

In the Scranton Diocese, Timlin is the leader whose name stands out in many cases cited by the grand jury.

It was Timlin’s name cited by a visibly disturbed Attorney General Josh Shapiro during a press conference last week, as the AG read a letter of support Timlin wrote to a priest accused of raping and impregnating a girl and helping her obtain an abortion.

Under Timlin’s watch, the report states, some of the alleged abusers were sent to church-run psychiatric treatment centers, then returned to duty at different parishes or at churches in other states — with recommendations from the longtime bishop, who led the diocese from 1984 until 2003.

Others were shuffled into roles that minimized their contact with the public, but retained their status within the church.

Some were, ultimately, persuaded to resign, while others were defrocked — laicized, as it is formally known under canon law.

Some of the cases did result in prosecution, though that was not a common outcome.

On more than one occasion, the grand jury report cites records showing Timlin offering apologies to those who alleged abuse, but little more.

Some victims did receive cash for their troubles: More than $3.7 million in settlements was paid out to six victims, the report reveals. The bulk of that amount came as a $3 million settlement approved in November 2007, bringing to end a federal trial whose two days of testimony unleashed a torrent of salacious details about the activities of one defrocked priest, Albert M. Liberatore Jr.

Now, in the wake of the report’s revelations, the mostly retired Timlin faces scrutiny both from the diocese he once led and from the Vatican.

Efforts to reach Timlin, 91, for this story were unsuccessful.

On Tuesday, after the report was released, diocesan spokesman Bill Genello told the Times Leader that Timlin would not be giving interviews in response.

After interviewing a former seminarian who recalled Timlin commenting on the Liberatore case during a religious gathering 11 years ago, a reporter contacted on-duty diocesan spokesman Dan Gallagher on Friday with several questions, including whether anyone at the diocese would respond to the man’s recollections.

Gallagher did not address that question in his response.

Efforts to reach Philadelphia attorney Kevin E. Raphael, who previously responded to the grand jury on Timlin’s behalf, also were unsuccessful.

‘This used to be so easy’

Tim Olivieri says he was studying to be a priest in 2007 when Bishop Emeritus Timlin visited the Oblates of St. Joseph Seminary in Laflin.

It was supposed to be a joyous occasion: The Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, which celebrates the seminary’s namesake.

But Olivieri says he will never forget how quickly Timlin’s mood soured when the distinguished guest suddenly faced an innocent question.

“Someone asked how he was doing,” Olivieri said.

“I’m still dealing with this Liberatore situation,” Olivieri said he heard an “annoyed” Timlin respond.

Albert M. Liberatore Jr. was by then a defrocked priest and convicted sex offender whose abuse of a teenage altar boy had gotten himself and the diocese sued in federal court in 2004.

After several years of legal maneuvering, March 19, 2007, brought a watershed moment: Federal Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled that day there was enough evidence to send the case to trial, despite the diocese’s arguments to the contrary.

“You know, the lawyers wouldn’t like me talking about this, but since I’m among friends,” Olivieri said Timlin continued.

“This used to be so easy when these things happened. We’d give them four years of college for free. They’d take their degrees and they’d move on,” Olivieri heard Timlin go on. “Now everybody wants their pound of flesh.”

“I was a little shocked,” Olivieri told the Times Leader last week. “This was part of dinner conversation.”

Timlin reportedly had more to say.

“These people want to take easy money,” Olivieri said he heard Timlin add. “If they really want to get over it, they should offer forgiveness.”

‘This too will pass away’

Timlin had frequently offered forgiveness and support for alleged child molesters within his ranks, the grand jury report suggests.

So it was with The Rev. Thomas D. Skotek.

The report says Skotek sexually assaulted a girl between 1980 and 1984 while serving as pastor of St. Casimir in Freeland, and helped the victim obtain an abortion after he learned she was pregnant.

Skotek was not removed from active ministry until 2002.

“Timlin was fully aware of the conduct by October, 1986,” the report states.

On Oct. 9, 1986, Timlin wrote to Skotek to accept “with sadness and deep regret” his resignation from St. Stanislaus, the Hazleton parish where he had served since March 1985.

“This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are,” Timlin wrote. “I too share your grief.”

That was the passage Shapiro read aloud Tuesday, emphasizing that Timlin didn’t write that letter to the girl, but to her alleged rapist.

Timlin’s letter confirmed that Skotek was being sent to St. Luke’s Institute in Suitland, Maryland, for an evaluation, starting on Oct. 18, 1986. Timlin asked Skotek “to call on me in November, after you have completed your stay at St. Luke’s.”

“With the help of God, who never abandons us and who is always near when we need Him, this too will pass away,” Timlin wrote, “and all will be able to pick up and go on living.”

In January 1987, Skotek was reassigned to St. Aloysius, in Wilkes-Barre.

Two years later, on Jan. 20. 1989, Timlin sent a letter to Cardinal Luigi Dadaglio at the Vatican, the grand jury learned, in which he reported that: “a priest in the diocese has been rendered irregular as a result of having assisted in the procurement of a completed abortion … Although I cannot absolutely give assurance that this priest’s criminal action will never become public, I do not foresee that such would likely be the case.

“This priest is currently residing in a parish quite far from the town where the crime was committed. He is awaiting a response to his request for a dispensation,” Timlin added.

“Conscious as I am of the severity of the crime he admits to, I nevertheless judge him worthy of consideration for a dispensation from this irregularity,” Timlin wrote.

Skotek would go on to serve at St. Aloysius until June 1999, when he was transferred to St. Mary and Ascension, Mocanaqua.

He was removed from ministry in April 2002, the report states, though it does not indicate why, or where he may be today.

The report does, however, indicate that the victim and her parents entered into a $75,000 settlement in December 1989. In exchange for the cash, she and her family agreed to a confidentiality agreement and liability waiver for the Diocese and Skotek.

Another pregnancy

Elements of the Skotek case where echoed in other incidents, including another involving a pregnant teen.

On March 24, 1988, the report states, Timlin received an anonymous letter from a parishioner advising that rumors were circulating about a relationship between Rev. Robert J. Brague, pastor of SS Peter and Paul in Towanda, and a high school female.

On June 16, 1988, that same anonymous parishioner sent a second letter to Timlin, advising that the relationship between Brague and the teenage female was still continuing. The parishioner stated that it was assumed that Timlin had disregarded the previous letter and further suggested that Timlin did not have very much control over his priests.

On Aug. 29, 1988, Timlin received a letter from the sister of the high school female.

She advised that Brague had engaged in sexual relations with her 17 year-old sister, who became pregnant.

Timlin responded to the letter by stating that as soon as the matter was brought to his attention, Brague was removed from office, the report states.

“Timlin noted that it was better to say as little as possible about the circumstances surrounding his removal rather than cause greater scandal through undue publicity,” the report adds.

In the letter he further noted that, “Father Brague and your sister have a long, difficult road ahead… What has happened is their responsibility and certainly Father Brague will take care of his obligations.”

The victim gave birth in April 1989.

On Aug. 25, 1989, Timlin sent a letter to Rev. John Nevins, Bishop of Venice, Fla., advising that Brague would no longer be able to exercise his priesthood in the Diocese of Scranton due to circumstances that had been discussed with Father Moretti. Timlin wrote that he wholeheartedly approved of Brague exercising his priesthood in Venice and highly recommended Brague.

On Jan. 19, 1990, Brague was appointed Parochial Vicar of St. Ann’s church in Naples, Fla.

According to a report in the News-Press of Fort Meyers, Fla., Brague died in Sarasota, Fla., in 1997 at age 56.

The paper also reported that The Diocese of Venice, Fla. did not answer questions about Brague’s duties at St. Ann’s, but did release a statement indicating the diocese “is not aware, nor was it ever informed, of any abuse allegations” against Brague.

It also states that Brague “remained a Diocese of Scranton priest throughout his stay here.”

Back in Pennsylvania, the grand jury found, Brague’s victim in 1996 requested that the Diocese of Scranton cover the cost of tuition for her son at St. Agnes School in Towanda.

She was advised that the school was willing to arrange for a scholarship for the boy, “even though enrollment numbers were rather high for the following year.”

‘Now she understands’

On Jan. 9, 1992, an angry parishioner from St. Vincent’s in Milford, Pike County, wrote to Timlin.

Father Robert N. Caparelli, who had been assigned there from 1981 until 1991, had been criminally charged for the sexual abuse of a child, and a civil lawsuit had been filed against the diocese.

The lawsuit alleged that the child had been molested from September 1985 through June 1986 in the rectory of St. Vincent DePaul. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that Caparelli forcibly sodomized the child.

In her letter, the parishioner said she had contacted diocesan officials about Caparelli’s “possible need for professional help” as early as September 1988, adding that Timlin never responded to a letter she had sent.

“Had you investigated the matter in 1988, perhaps we, as, a parish family, would not be facing what we are today in such great proportion,” the woman wrote.

“The parishioners’ ‘rights to know the truth’ has been violated and a distrust of the church and its hierarchy prevails,” she wrote. “Perhaps this is even a greater scandal than the immediate crisis facing St. Vincent’s parishioners.”

The letter bears a handwritten note from Timlin, dated Jan. 17, 1992: “Never got the first letter! Everything ok – now she understands.”

As the grand jury reports, complaints about Caparelli dated as far back as 1968, when a Hazleton police officer informed Bishop J. Carroll McCormick about his alleged abuse of two brothers, altar boys ages 11 and 12.

On Sept. 2, 1968, McCormick wrote a secret note that the Grand Jury obtained from the confidential diocesan archives. McCormick wrote that he had spoken with Caparelli who “admitted acting too freely with 2 altar boys.” Contrary to the reports about him, Caparelli insisted that he did not do anything immoral.

Caparelli was subsequently sent to the Padua Retreat House.

An internal Diocesan memorandum from October 1968 noted that based upon Caparelli’s version of events, “the mother, a nurse, may have exaggerated.” Any child sexual abuse was dismissed as “immaturity” and a change was suggested. McCormick assigned Caparelli to serve in the parish of St. Mary’s in Old Forge that month.

Letters found in diocesan records indicate complains against Caparelli continued, including a 1974 incident in which Caparelli allegedly admitted to the head pastor and a state police captain that he had touched the genitals of the trooper’s son and others.

“The captain informed the head pastor and Caparelli that no one wanted to press criminal charges but that Caparelli’s conduct had to change,” the report states. “The head pastor assured him that he would take care of it. Caparelli was transferred within the year.”

He was sent to the Mercy Center in Dallas, where he remained until being transferred to Milford in 1981.

In 1985, while Caparelli was still in active ministry as head pastor at St. Vincent’s, Timlin dispatched a memorandum to all priests, religious and lay personnel of the Diocese of Scranton.

The memorandum explained that the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Act required reporting to civil authorities both “actual and suspected cases of child abuse.” The memorandum explained that a report must be made to the head priest of a parish or the superior of a given diocesan institution.

In spite of this mandate, the grand jury noted, Timlin permitted Caparelli’s continued ministry and no report was made regarding his conduct.

“Over the years, many more victims came forward,” the report states.

Caparelli ultimately pleaded guilty to offenses against children and received prison time.

While in prison it was discovered that Caparelli had been HIV-positive for years. He died behind bars in December 1994.

A mistaken son?

Timlin’s experience dealing with sexual abuse allegations began well before he became the bishop.

On Dec. 3, 1974, then-Chancellor Timlin received a telephone call from a woman who said that her 16-year-old son had been touched by Father Ralph N. Ferraldo, then assistant pastor at St. Francis in Nanticoke, in an immoral manner, the report states.

The woman further reported that Ferraldo had done this to other altar boys and to an orderly at a local hospital. The female did not want to provide her name.

When questioned by Timlin and Bishop J. Carroll McCormick, Ferraldo denied the allegations.

He did, however, admit that he had older boys visit his room in the rectory, but nothing improper had occurred. Ferraldo was asked not to do that anymore.

Ferraldo asked for a transfer out of Nanticoke if things were being said about him. He was informed that it was their understanding that the talk was not widespread and it would be an admission of guilt for him to be moved.

The caller was notified of the meeting between McCormick, Timlin and Ferraldo. She maintained that her son was telling the truth. She was told that if she wanted to pursue the matter, her son would have to come forward and face Ferraldo.

Timlin pointed out that it was possible that her son was mistaken, the report states.

It was not the last complaint about Ferraldo.

An Oct. 3, 1985, note in the Diocesan records reveals that an evaluation on Ferraldo, a hospital chaplain, was undertaken after a report of inappropriate behavior with a patient was received.

On Feb. 14, 1986, two staff members from Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center called Timlin to report that Ferraldo made improper sexual advances against a 23-year-old male patient.

Ferraldo admitted to this allegation, stating that “he did not know what comes over him,” according to the report.

Ferraldo agreed to immediately leave his assignment and not return to the hospital. Timlin instructed Ferraldo to make arrangements for other priests to cover his Masses and to tell them that he was not feeling well. He was further directed to report for evaluation and counseling.

On Nov. 30, 1988, Timlin granted Ferraldo an indefinite leave of absence.

He died in 1997. Even that didn’t end the complaints.

On May 14, 2002, the Archdiocese of New York notified the Diocese of Scranton that a male had reported that he was sexually abused by Ferraldo in 1982-83 when he was 16 or 17.

‘Confidential – no action taken’

“From the day in 1989 when he was ordained by then Bishop James Timlin, Liberatore was known as a charismatic, compassionate priest who had a gift for motivating people,” a 2007 Times Leader feature story said of disgraced cleric Albert M. Liberatore Jr.

He is, you will recall, the subject of that lawsuit that so angered Timlin during the Oblates dinner, as Olivieri recalled it.

Liberatore had become a household name in Northeastern Pennsylvania thanks to salacious revelations in the press and court documents. His salacious behavior had come to Timlin’s attention a decade previously.

In November 1996, the grand jury found, Father Joseph Bambera — the current bishop — sent a memorandum to Timlin expressing concern over a “close relationship” between Liberatore, then at St. Pius X Seminary in Lackawanna County, and a young adult male.

“(Bambera) wrote that he perceived it to be a potentially problematic situation. He stated that Liberatore knew the young male was not old enough to drink in Pennsylvania so therefore he took him to New York to consume alcohol. They spent the night there,” the report says.

“Timlin wrote on the memorandum, ‘Confidential – no action taken.’”

Four months later, March 1997, a note was written containing a “summary of concerns” about Liberatore, the grand jury found.

One incident described in the note was about how young men from Wilkes-Barre’s Bishop Hoban High School visiting St. Pius X walked by an open door and saw Liberatore lying on the bed being given a back rub by a seminarian.

“Timlin noted on the summary, ‘Strictly Confidential, spoke to Father Liberatore about all of this. Matter was resolved.’” the report states.

Liberatore’s pursuit of young men was anything but resolved, the grand jury found.

In December 2002, Timlin received a letter from The American College in Louvain, Belgium. In the note, it was reported that a “visibly inebriated” Liberatore was seen taking a “young man” into his bedroom while visiting there.

According the report, Timlin and Bishop Dougherty met with Liberatore, who then admitted to the activity in the letter from Louvain.

Liberatore, who was then administrator at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Duryea, was sent for an evaluation in January 2003.

Criminal charges

The allegations against Liberatore took a more serious turn the following January.

Diocesan officials received a complaint that Libertore had sexually abused two young men, and the complaint was reported to law enforcement, the grand jury found.

Liberatore was arrested on July 15, 2004, and charged with indecent assault, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of children and furnishing alcohol to a minor in connection with the sexual abuse of an altar boy between May 1999 and May 2004.

The young man who filed the lawsuit had been a 14-year-old altar boy when his mother had turned to Liberatore, then pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Duryea, for emotional support after the boy’s father developed a serious neurological disorder.

Liberatore showered the youth with affection, gifts, alcohol and trips to New York, showed him gay pornography and abused him for several years.

Liberatore was also arrested by New York City Police for a felony for a sexual assault on the same minor.

He pleaded guilty in both cases, and remains on the state’s Megan’s Law sex offender list, which indicates that he lives in Scranton.

The victim’s suit finally went to trial in November 2007.

After two days of testimony in the case, the diocese settled for $3 million — before the victim took the stand, but not before witnesses spoke about Liberatore’s sexual advances on two other young men, ages 22 and 19, prior to his abuse of the underage altar boy.

Olivieri, who recalled hearing Timlin talking about the case at the Oblates, ultimately left the seminary — in part, he says, due to what he heard at that Feast of St. Joseph dinner.

“It was all rather disturbing,” Olivieri said.

He has since moved out of the area, and is living in New York with his wife and family. When he saw the grand jury report, he said he felt inclined to speak up.

On Timlin’s behalf

In the grand jury report, Attorney Kevin E. Raphael responded to the allegations on Timlin’s behalf.

“Bishop Emeritus Timlin sadly acknowledges that his and the Diocese’s efforts were imperfect. Bishop Emeritus Timlin acted with his best judgment, informed by his then-existing understanding of medical science’s ability to identify and treat offenders, and based (at times) on legal advice he received from diocesan counsel,” he wrote.

“Over the course of his tenure, as he personally gained greater experience in handling allegations of child sexual abuse by priests, and as his personal understanding of, and the understanding of medical science about, child sexual offenders evolved, Bishop Emeritus Timlin’s handling of these allegations also evolved and continued to improve.”

Raphael wrote that “respectfully, the Diocese of Scranton was, in many ways, in the forefront of the Church’s response to these concerns.”

As early as 1993, he added, Timlin established an independent review board, composed of laypeople, to advise him in responding to allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. In addition, in 1993 Timlin created a uniform procedure for addressing allegations of child sexual abuse.

As the diocese reviewed allegations pursuant to the 1993 policy and subsequent versions, and as it gained greater experience in doing so, the processes used by Timlin and the diocese “evolved and improved,” Raphael added, “informed by experience and a growing awareness that individuals who sexually abused children could not be successfully cured through medical science.”

“Bishop Emeritus Timlin recognizes that some of his past decisions regarding offenders were imperfect, and in hindsight regrets that his past judgments at the time caused a single day of pain to any victims,” Raphael added.

Timlin’s future

On Friday, the diocese released a statement indicating that Timlin is under internal scrutiny on two fronts:

• Following the release of the grand jury report, Bambera has instructed the diocese’s independent review board — the panel Timlin himself created 25 years ago — to conduct a formal assessment of Timlin’s handling of previous allegations of abuse and to make recommendations as to his role in the diocese moving forward.

This review process has already begun, the statement indicated, and the recommendations are expected no later than Aug. 31.

• Simultaneously, Bambera has referred the matter to the Vatican, which has authority over Timlin’s canonical status.

“This is consistent with how the Diocese handles all similar allegations. As in all cases, while these matters are under review, Bishop Timlin is not authorized to represent the Diocese of Scranton in any public events, liturgical or otherwise,” the diocese added.

The Times Leader reached out to the Vatican’s diplomatic office in Washington to ask about the review process, and whether Timlin could face laicization or other penalties.

The office did not respond to a request for comment.


Below are highlights of other cases in which was said to have knowledge of abuse allegations, according to the grand jury report.

• Rev. Girard F. Angelo

In September 2002 Timlin received a letter from an adult male who wanted to report to the Diocese of Scranton that he had been sexually abused by Father Girard F. Angelo when he was 14 in the early 1960s, while Angelo was assigned to Mater Dolorosa in Williamsport.

Timlin contacted the male and advised that the allegations would be brought to the attention of the Lycoming County District Attorney’s Office even though the statute of limitations appeared to have expired. Angelo denied the allegations.

• Rev. Joseph Bonner

In March 2004, a victim who said he was molested by Bonner complained that he had not received any support from Timlin.

The diocese had learned about the accusation in May 2002, at which time the diocese notified authorities that Bonner had retired from the priesthood.

According to the report, the victim pointed out that Timlin refused to inform the parishes where Bonner had been assigned so that other victims might feel comfortable to come forward with any reports of abuse.

It was not until April 13, 2004 that the diocese requested that the pastors of the parishes to which Bonner had been assigned publish a “Notice Regarding Sexual Abuse” in their bulletin.

The notice stated, in part, that “clerical sexual abuse may have occurred in this parish in the past. If this is the case, please come forward and make it known.”

• Rev. Martin M. Boylan

In 1993, while Boylan was serving as a chaplain at Marywood College, a male student alleged that Boylan sexually harassed him and propositioned him for sex. The diocese sent Boylan for a psychological evaluation in Downingtown, and, after the evaluation was completed, it was determined that Boylan would take leave from the ministry and undergo two to three years of outpatient psychotherapy.

After completing the therapy, Boylan underwent evaluations in 1994, 1997 and 2004. According to a note in the file, the evaluations did not raise any serious concerns that would prevent Boylan from exercising public ministry.

In a letter dated April 5, 2016, a former member of the Independent Review Board wrote to Bambera and noted that throughout the years, Boylan’s case had returned to the board, and the board continually noted that Boylan had resisted treatment and had resented the recommendations made by both the board and the team from Downingtown.

In 1996, the board had recommended that Boylan return to Downingtown, but this recommendation was ignored. The official notes of the board observed that Boylan “attempts to orchestrate his own approach to therapy.” The letter further stated that lolver the course of time, Boylan often wrote to Timlin, requesting to be appointed pastor. The board always objected to this possibility.

Nevertheless, Timlin appointed him pastor and Boylan continued to consistently appear at public events throughout the diocese.

• Monsignor Gerald J. Burns

On Jan. 11, 1994, Timlin received a letter from a woman who said her husband was molested by Burns for years during the 1950s. Timlin spoke to Burns, who denied any wrongdoing. Timlin suggested it would be best for him to retie, and Burns agreed. He retired on Jan. 24, 1994.

Timlin sent a letter to the victim and his wife to apologize and advised that Burns had resigned and would never be assigned to another parish again. Timlin pledged to help both of them. On Feb. 15, 1994, Timlin notified the victim that the Diocese would assume responsibility for the cost for his counseling. This responsibility was to be shared with Burns.

• Rev. Raymond L. Deviney

On Oct. 8, 1994, an adult female informed Timlin that she was sexually abused by Father Raymond L. Deviney when she was a teenager in high school.

Timlin sent her a letter dated Jan. 6, 1995, where he apologized for Deviney’s actions. He informed her that he would address the matter with Deviney and deal with it appropriately Timlin asked that she contact him so he could talk to her before he met with Deviney.

On June 17, 2001, the female wrote to Timlin, inquiring as to whether Deviney had ever received treatment for his alcoholism and abuse of women. She indicated that she was touched by his previous letter and telephone call and held onto the belief that the Bishop was a good and honest man of deep religious faith. She told Timlin that she would be in the area on a certain date and provided contact information for where she could be reached.

On July 9, 2001, Timlin sent the female a letter apologizing for the delay in his response and for being unable to call her when she was in the Scranton area. He advised that he was not aware of any formal treatment that Deviney had received. Furthermore, he stated that he did not believe Deviney would ever admit that he had a problem with alcoholism and abuse of women. He advised that Deviney was approximately 67 years old and it was unlikely that he would ever see himself as a candidate for any kind of residential treatment.

Timlin stated that he was sorry that she was still upset about whatever had occurred between her and Deviney and that he hoped that she would be able to put it all behind her.

On Oct. 6, 2002, the female wrote to Timlin, stressing that she had delayed writing it because she was appalled by his complete change in attitude. She stated that she was quite angry and distraught that the seriousness of Deviney’s actions had been swept under the carpet.

On Dec. 10, 2002, Timlin sent a letter to her apologizing for giving her the impression that her complaint was somehow “swept under the carpet” or not taken seriously. He stated that he was finally able to talk to Deviney in person and reviewed her letter with him, along with her request that he be given some treatment. While Deviney did not admit to doing anything that was seriously wrong, he did agree to attend therapy. Timlin stated that he hoped that this would be of some help to Deviney and would be a source of peace of mind for her.

The diocesan file indicates that the allegation against Deviney was unsubstantiated.

• Rev. John M. Duggan

Father John M. Duggan was assigned to the Jesuit community in Scranton in the 1970s. In the late 1980s, he was approved by the Diocese of Scranton to assist pastors in the area. Then, in 1988, Bishop James C. Timlin appointed Duggan to be the Assistant Pastor at St. Paul.

In 1993, Duggan was sent for a psychological evaluation and admitted to sexually abusing young children in his early priesthood. He denied that any of the abuse occurred within the Diocese. Upon his release, Timlin reinstated Duggan. However, Duggan was restricted to supervised ministry and was required to meet regularly with his aftercare counseling team.

On Dec. 11, 1996, an adult male reported to Timlin that he was sexually abused by Duggan in the 1970s when he was a teenager engaged in spiritual counseling at the Jesuit house in Scranton. Timlin thereafter imposed a ban on Duggan’s parish work and restricted him to convent and prison ministry.

In 1999, the same male reported that he believed Duggan was participating in unsupervised ministry. The Diocesan Review Board recommended to Timlin that the only ministries that would be open to Duggan were the celebration of mass and the administration of sacraments in correctional facilities, nursing homes and convents.

In May 2002, the male contacted the Diocese and requested assurances that Duggan posed no threat to young people. Timlin then suggested to the Maryland Provincial that it would not be a good idea for Duggan to return to Scranton. The Provincial notified Timlin that Duggan had been removed from the Jesuit Community in Scranton.

• Rev. James F. Fedor

From 1981 to 1986, Father James F. Fedor sought counseling on his own for issues/concerns relating to his desire to have contact with young girls. From 1986 to 1987, Fedor received psychological treatment/evaluation.

On July 7, 1991, Fedor was granted an indefinite leave of absence by Timlin and he was laicized on May 3, 1994.

• Rev. Austin E. Flanagan

On Sept. 11, 1980, Bishop J. Carroll McCormick received a letter from a parishioner who advised that the parishioners were disgusted with Father Austin E. Flanagan. The letter stated that Flanagan would not let anyone in the rectory and that he was sleeping in sleeping bags with young boys.

On June 27, 1990, Timlin received a letter from Dr. Richard D. Malone, associate medical director, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center in Harrison, New York, concerning Flanagan. The letter was sent upon the request of, and with the permission of, Flanagan himself.

Flanagan related that approximately one month prior to his admission to St. Vincent’s Hospital, he had been questioned about fondling two boys at a summer camp two years earlier.

The boys had reported it to another priest who, in turn, reported it to Timlin. Flanagan told Malone that he did not deny what happened. However, he stated, “I thought they were asleep and also I had a lot to drink.” Flanagan acknowledge that several other similar instances in the past had occurred.

There was no information in the files concerning the identity of the two boys.

On July 3, 2002, Flanagan was removed from active ministry.

• Rev. Robert J. Gibson

On Jan. 5, 1995, the Diocese of Scranton was contacted by an attorney representing a man who claimed to have been sexually abused by Father Robert J. Gibson in 1975 when the victim was 14 years old. Gibson admitted to the sexual misconduct.

On Jan. 9, 1995, Gibson resigned as pastor of St. Bernadette. He was admitted to St. John Vianney Hospital in Downingtown for evaluation and treatment.

In August 1995, Gibson was discharged with a recommendation that he reside at a parish under supervision and continue to receive therapy. He was placed in residence at St. Ignatius Rectory.

In the spring of 1997, a complaint was received from a mother who accused Gibson of “grooming behavior” involving her son. Gibson was re-admitted to St. John Vianney Hospital for further assessment.

On Sept. 16, 1997, the decision was made that Gibson could no longer exercise priestly ministry or reside in a Diocesan facility. He remained under supervision until he was able to be placed in a residential treatment facility.

On Feb. 1, 1998, Gibson was placed in the St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri. The facility monitors priests so as to prevent any behavior that would be harmful to the faithful. Timlin removed Gibson’ s priestly faculties and directed him to refrain from wearing clerical attire outside of the Renewal Center. Gibson refused to seek voluntary laicization.

On Feb. 26, 1998, the Diocese received information that Gibson was involved in sexual misconduct with his nephew, who was a minor at the time.

On April 5, 2002, the Diocese received a letter from an adult male who accused Gibson of sexual misconduct and providing pornographic material to him when he was a minor. A copy of the letter was shared with law enforcement.

• Rev. Lawrence Homer

On Jan. 15, 1967, Father Post was advised that Father P. Lawrence Homer had a 14-year-old female in his locked office for the duration of an entire class period. It was reported that he engaged in a sexual conversation with her. Post was also made aware of a second victim that Homer brought into his office. This victim was also approximately 14 years old. It was reported that she was in his locked office for more than one hour. Homer was subsequently transferred to another parish.

On Jan. 24, 1988, a female notified the Diocese that she was sexually molested by Homer in 1964 when she was 14 years old. She advised that Homer had fondled her breasts under her blouse. The Diocese received multiple complaints from adult female victims over the years who alleged that they were sexually involved with Homer during a fragile time in their lives. Homer was sent for evaluation and treatment on two separate occasions. Information contained within the Diocesan files was very vague, however. None of the incidents were reported to law enforcement.

• Rev. Joseph F. Houston

On June 29, 1971, Father George Jeffrey reported to Bishop J. Carroll McCormick that Father Joseph F. Houston and a minor female were observed going into a motel room late at night on multiple occasions. They had also been seen together in public on a regular basis.

On May 4, 2002, Bishop James C. Timlin received a letter from this female victim, advising that Houston had taken advantage of her from the age of 14 to the age of 17. She asked that the incident not be brought to the attention of law enforcement.

On June 28, 2002, Houston was removed from his priestly duties by the Diocese.

On July 6, 2004, Pope John Paul II granted Houston dispensation.

• Rev. Francis G. Kulig

On Nov. 4, 1986, a concerned father wrote a letter to the Diocese of Scranton and alleged that his son was sexually molested by Father Francis G. Kulig beginning in 1979 when the boy was 12 years old. The abuse continued until Kulig was transferred on Oct. 2, 1985.

When he was interviewed, Kulig admitted to having a relationship with the victim.

On Dec. 30, 1986, Timlin acknowledged that Kulig would receive treatment. He underwent treatment from Feb. 17, 1987, through Aug. 14, 1987.

At the request of Timlin, Kulig submitted his resignation from St. Mary of the Lake. Following his treatment, Kulig was assigned to the Mercy Center Convent. Upon learning of this assignment, the victim’s father began writing Timlin, expressing his concerns that Kulig was still a priest.

A sum of $10,000 was ultimately paid to the family.

Effective July 3, 2002, Kulig had his faculties removed. He was prohibited from wearing clerical garb and presenting himself as a priest. He was further prohibited from celebrating mass or the sacraments as a priest.

• Rev. John A. Madaj

On March 12, 1990, the Diocese received a letter from the parents of a 19-year-old male, alleging that Madaj had sexually molested their son when he was nine or 10 years of age. When Timlin confronted Madaj, Madaj denied the allegation Timlin then contacted the parents of the victim and informed them of Madaj’s denial. Timlin recommended that their son speak to a counselor. He also suggested that they meet with Madaj.

• Rev. Mark T. Rossetti

On Nov. 1, 1995, the Diocese of Scranton was made aware of an incident between Father Mark T. Rossetti and a 13-year-old boy that occurred when the boy was in eighth grade. The incident was immediately reported to the police. Rossetti was removed from ministry and sent for psychological evaluation and rehabilitation.

On Nov. 21, 1995, the victim and his family signed a waiver of prosecution to end the investigation.

On Oct. 17, 1997, Timlin sent a letter to the Archbishop of New York. Although the Review Board for the Diocese of Scranton had reacted negatively to giving Rossetti an assignment in Scranton, it was Timlin’ s personal opinion that Rossetti was not a risk and that he should be allowed to perform some priestly work. In his letter, Timlin stated that he would be deeply grateful if the Archbishop could allow Rossetti to work in New York, at least temporarily. The Archdiocese of New York released Rossetti back to the Diocese of Scranton in 2002.

Rossetti was laicized in 2007.

• Rev. Lawrence P. Weniger

On Feb. 26, 2002, the Diocese of Scranton was contacted by an adult male who stated that he was sexually abused by Father Lawrence P. Weniger in the 1960s when he served as an altar boy. No further information was contained in the file, and Weniger had died in 1972.

On June 3, 2002, the Diocese was contacted by another adult male who stated that he was sexually abused by Weniger in the 1960’s. The male stated that he was seeking information and inquired about compensation for his painful memories. Timlin wrote a note stating that he had a good conversation with the male, answered his questions and expressed how sorry he was. The note indicated that the male felt that compensation was sufficient for him.

• Rev. Joseph B. Wilson

In 1994, Father Joseph B. Wilson was known as Brother Raphael Wilson, a member of the Order of Holy Cross Province. He approached Timlin and requested to be accepted into the Diocese of Scranton. He was approved by the Admissions Committee. After several months of confirming his records, Wilson was ordained as a priest at 69 years of age.

Handwritten notes in the file reflected that in July, 2002, the Diocese became aware that while Wilson was a Religious Brother at Holy Cross, there were allegations made that he had sexually abused two boys. Wilson admitted to abusing one of the boys and he was sent for evaluation and treatment.

A confidential settlement in the amount of $250,000 was reached with the victim.

• Society of St. John

The Society of St. Pius X (“SSPX”) was founded in 1970 by a retired missionary bishop, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in order to perpetuate the traditional liturgical rites of the church.

In an effort to return disaffected members of the SSPX to membership in the Catholic Church, Timlin interviewed a group of men who claimed that they were seeking to return to the true church. The group of men called themselves the Society of St. John and included four priests: Carlos Urrutigoity, Eric Ensey, Daniel Fullerton and Marshall Roberts. There were no background checks or reviews of their seminary or priestly formation records at that time. Father Urrutigoity and Father Ensey were subsequently incardinated into the Diocese.

Timlin had the censures lifted and the priests took up residence with the FSSP in Elmhurst.

The FSSP established St. Gregory’s Academy, a high school for boys, with FSSP headquarters located in the same building as the high school. While residing there, Ensey served as chaplain at the Academy during the 1997-1998 and the 1998-1999 school years.

On Sept. 15, 2001, Timlin was informed that Urrutigoity had made it a practice to sleep in the same bed with boys and young men. Timlin immediately questioned Urrutigoity who denied any immoral behavior. Urrutigoity did admit that there may have been occasions when overcrowded conditions prompted shared sleeping arrangements. Timlin ordered Urrutigoity to stop the behavior and the allegation was brought before the Diocesan Review Board. Because there was no specific complaint, however, the Board believed that Timlin’s instruction was all that could be done.

On Jan. 12, 2002, Timlin received correspondence from a representative of the pope.

Attached was a letter written by a victim’s father accusing Urrutigoity and Ensey of sexual misconduct. Father Clay, who was staying at the Shohola property, was also accused. These allegations were investigated by the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office. However, because the statute of limitations had expired, no criminal charges were filed against Urrutigoity and Ensey. Clay’s case was referred to the Pike County District Attorney’s Office but no criminal charges were ever filed.

Urrutigoity, Ensey and Clay were sent for clinical assessments and removed from active ministry, pending the outcome of the diocese investigation. With respect to Ensey, the panel determined that Ensey did commit the grave delict of sexual abuse of a minor. The clinical assessments of Urrutigoity and Ensey resulted in the determination that neither one should be engaged in active ministry involving children.

Timlin reinstated Clay. Clay declined the appointment, however, and was granted a leave of absence. Clay ultimately moved to the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, where he became active in a Catholic Church.

While awaiting an investigation by the Diocese, Ensey travelled to Canada where it was learned that he was active in a Catholic Church. He was also involved in soliciting donations for the reinstatement of the SSJ in Paraguay.

Clay and Ensey’ s participation in another Diocese after decrees had been issued whereby they were forbidden to be part of any active ministry created negative publicity both for the Diocese of Scranton and the Dioceses where they were living.

While awaiting the Diocesan investigation, Urrutigoity and Ensey requested to be excardinated from the Diocese so they could be incardinated by Bishop Livieres Plano into the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, with the hopes of re-establishing the SSJ. The request was initially denied.

In 2008, however, Urrutigoity was excardinated from the Diocese andincardinated into the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. The Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este praised Urrutigoity, citing the letter written by Timlin where he gave a glowing opinion of the SSJ and Urrutigoity. The SSJ was re-created in Paraguay and Urrutigoity was promoted to second in charge under Plano. In 2014, the Vatican initiated an investigation into Urrutigoity and Plano. Urrutigoity was removed as second in command and Plano was removed as bishop.

• Rev. Benedict J. Van der Putten

While in Los Gatos, Calif., van der Putten had “indecent acts” with a 15-year-old girl and attempted the same with another girl, 17 (no description of acts). This occurred around 2000.

He was immediately sent to the International Headquarters for the Society of St. Pius X in Switzerland. He was sent on sabbatical to the island monastery in Orkney Islands of Scotland. While in Ireland, he was expelled from the Society.

In 2001, he became a member of the Society of Saint John and worked in relations with the Diocese of Scranton. When Timlin sent the paperwork to Rome for van der Putten to be “regularized” with the Diocese of Scranton, Rome reported the sexual abuse allegation made by the Society of St. Pius X.

In 2001 Timlin was notified that there was a past sexual abuse allegation against van der Putten while in California. In 2002, van der Putten was interviewed by Timlin and other Diocesan administrators. Van der Putten admitted involvement with a 16-year-old girl.

Timlin sent van der Putten for evaluation at the Southdown Institute in Ontario. In a report written by Diocesan officials, they summarized the evaluation of van der Putten. He admitted to recently fondling a young woman he met while on Christmas vacation in 2001. The Southdown Institute found van der Putten had displayed “predatory behavior.”

The Diocese received a call from a woman in January 2002. She reported van der Putten molested her 18-year-old daughter in December 2001. This woman tracked van der Putten to Sacramento, where he was giving liturgy. The Diocese noted in a report documenting the woman’s complaint that van der Putten had a “Celebret” from the Congregation in Rome, Ecclesiae Dei, which provided him, with legitimacy, to engage in liturgy.

In 2002, Timlin advised van der Putten he would not be given faculties with the Diocese of Scranton. In December 2003, a memorandum went out to all bishops by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Office of the General Secretary advising that van der Putten was a former member of the Society of St. Pius X and that he did not have faculties in the Diocese of Scranton due to admitted sexual misconduct.

The Diocese of Scranton did not have any contact with van der Putten after April 2002.

Bishop Emeritus James Timlin arrives at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton for a Thanksgiving mass in his honor in 2016.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_timlin01-3.jpgBishop Emeritus James Timlin arrives at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton for a Thanksgiving mass in his honor in 2016. Times Leader file

By Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence

[email protected]

To learn more

Additional background and cases can be read with this story at timesleader.com.