Accused priest Thomas D. Skotek says he still celebrates Mass every morning, but not at a church.
“I said Mass this morning upstairs in my room,” Skotek told the Times Leader in an exclusive interview Thursday on the porch of his home in McAdoo, Schuylkill County.
Skotek, named in a shocking grand jury report last week that uncovered widespread sexual abuse in the Scranton diocese and five others across the state, is accused of raping a minor female in the 1980s while serving at St. Casimir in Freeland.
According to documents in the grand jury report, Skotek began engaging in sexual activity with the girl in 1980, when she was 13. This continued until 1984 or 1985.
He helped her obtain an abortion after she became pregnant, and the case resulted in a $75,000 settlement for the victim from the diocese in 1989.
Skotek, who was never charged with a crime, did not in any way contest the abuse allegation when questioned about it on Thursday.
Instead, he remained contrite throughout the interview, answering a reporter’s questions in a friendly way after initially saying he couldn’t say much “without the authority of a bishop.”
“I’m very sorry that I hurt these victims,” said Skotek, who says he has no contact with the woman today. “And I’m sorry that I hurt my brother priests.”
He continued: “I tried my best in the last many years to make up for the mistake I made.”
Skotek did not comment and stared blankly when asked about how Catholics might have trouble equating the church’s staunch anti-abortion stance with the abortion he “aided the girl in obtaining,” according to the grand jury report.
Skotek continued to serve as a priest for almost two decades after the abortion.
Besides the pregnancy case, the report mentions an allegation made in 2002 by a woman who says she was sexually abused by Skotek while attending Pocono Central Catholic High School and working at the rectory at St. Mary’s in Mount Pocono.
Skotek, who was assigned to St. Mary of the Mount in Mount Pocono from 1969 to 1972, “admitted to his conduct when confronted,” the report states.
Skotek, who turns 81 in October, has not served anywhere as a priest since he resigned from St. Mary and Ascension in Mocanaqua in the spring of 2002, according to diocese records.
But even though he no longer wears the white collar, he still considers himself to be a priest, just “not active.”
Since he’s been out of active ministry, he said he’s aided other clergy.
“I took care of fellow priests that were ill,” he said. “I still am taking care of priests in nursing homes.”
Skotek even expressed some hope he could return to his official priestly duties one day.
“That’s always a hope for everybody,” he said.
Diocese records, however, list Skotek as being “permanently removed from ministry,” with a note about an ongoing “canonical process.”
He answered his door wearing ripped jeans, a dark T-shirt and a windbreaker. Religious figurines appeared to be displayed on a counter inside his home.
Despite his 80 years, Skotek seemed spry and easily could’ve passed for a man in his mid- to late 60s.
Timlin ‘a great bishop’
As far as Bishop James Timlin and the scrutiny he’s come under for allegedly covering up abuse within the Catholic church for decades, Skotek had only good things to say about his former boss.
“He’s a great bishop and he’s a great priest,” said Skotek. “I just hope people remember him for the good priest and the good bishop he is.”
Skotek also expressed appreciation for the several people who have spoken to the Times Leader about how his counsel helped them through dark times in their own lives.
He asked a Times Leader reporter to pray for him and for the public to “pray for victims and for the church.”
He also noted that he knew the report was coming, and no one has questioned him while he’s been out in public since he was identified by the grand jury and his case singled out by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
A neighbor of Skotek’s said he’s heard he’s a “very nice man.” The neighbor, who didn’t want to give his name, said Skotek pretty much keeps to himself.
When asked about Skotek’s prominent role in the grand jury report, the neighbor said: “He did it. He’s going to pay for it, I guess.”
Michael Reich is the night editor of the Times Leader. Reach him at 570-991-6117.