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In case you are one of the people who believe that the worst of the sex scandal in the Catholic Church is over, I have more bad news. Another priest in the Diocese of Scranton has been reported, this time for child pornography.
According to news reports, and this is a story that is just breaking this evening, Father Robert Timchak was in court in Milford to begin answering charges for possession of child pornography and tampering with evidence. According to news channels in Scranton, the investigation has been ongoing since December 2008 when someone tipped off the Diocese of Scranton that he had child pornography on his computer.
According to Channel 16 in Scranton, Timchak has served as pastor at several Catholic churches in the area, including the Transfigurations Church in West Hazelton, Saints Peter and Paul in Hazelton and most recently Saint John Neumann in Lords Valley
On the St John Neumann website this evening is a note to parishioners that reads:
Due to the recent problems in the Catholic Church,The Church has provided information for any individual that may have questions about the Bishop’s decision in Dallas. Please go to the following web site of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops www.usccb.org.
You will note that the Diocese has not put any information that tells you that your priest has child pornography on his computer nor does it tell you to contact the Pennsylvania State Police if you have information that would benefit law enforcement or the Pike County District Attorney. There is nothing on the website for the combined Transfigurations Church and Saints Peter and Paul in the Hazelton area. No need to let too many people know that a potential predator was in their midst. That is the way the Diocese of Scranton rolls!
I have to ask the obvious question here, why did it take the Pennsylvania State Police 11 months to check this guy’s computer and arrest him? Why did the Diocese of Scranton leave this “priest” in the parish since December 2008? I would love to ask if the Diocese of Scranton went into the community looking for possible victims. I wonder how many families in the parish where close to Father Timchak? Of those families, how many had young boys that were left alone with Father Timchak? Are any of the photos on the computer children of the parishes to which he was assigned?
Once again the Diocese showed the blinding speed with which it deals with potential child molesters wearing Roman Collars. I imagine it took Bill Genello that long to practice the line “the Diocese has no comment” in front of the mirror in the bathroom. It was, no doubt, Bill Genello that put the brilliant and totally useless line on the church website. In case you are reading this Bill, I did a screen grab to document your referral to an organization that your most recent Bishop, Joseph Martino claimed did not have any authority in his diocese.
I am very familiar with this area. I served mass at Good Shepherd. I lived in Hemlock Farms from 7th grade through my graduation from high school in 1978. I also lived there during the first two summers when I attended the University of Scranton.St John Neumann draws parishioners from that development. I lived in Hemlock Farms during the time frame where I was abused and raped by Father Gibson.
I am sure that there are a lot of parents in Lords Valley, West Hazelton and Hazelton who are having some very difficult conversations with their children tonight. If I may offer advice, please be supportive and don’t overreact if you child starts to tell you about things that make you uncomfortable. If your child has had a noticable change in personality, attitude, school behavior or has been withdrawn, moody or depressed seek help. I strongly recommend you do not go to the Diocese of Scranton. As kind and gentle as Joan Holmes may seem to you, the Diocese will try to collect information and spin this to their advantage. Do not let them control any aspect of this process, they will turn on you.
The Diocese of Scranton has an adversarial record in dealing with victims and their families over the years. Don’t let them re-victimize you, your family or your community. Believe me when I tell you from first hand experience, they will not make you a priority. They will protect the Diocese, the Diocese’s bank account and the priest before they will do anything for victims.
The Year of the Priest rolls on. I just don’t think that this is what the Pope had in mind!
A New York Times article that ran on 15 October tells the story of “a mother, a sick son and his father, the priest”. The priest a, Franciscan Friar, was able to work his way into the family, taking advantage of the woman by using his position as “spiritual director” and marriage counselor after the woman’s marriage fell apart. He eventually ended up “sharing a bed, meals, movie nights and vacations with the children”.
The relationship finally ended up producing a son. The Franciscans eventually acquiesced to providing child support after convincing the woman to sign a confidentiality agreement. The relationship between the priest and the woman came to an end when another woman confronted the woman who gave birth to the priest’s child because she too had a long term sexual relationship with the same priest.
The priest in question did get to go to a program run for priests with sexual disorders in New Mexico. Can it be the Servants of the Paraclete that worked with this priest? ( This is the same organization that helps American Dioceses with their “Pedophile Relocation and Protection” issues.) The recidivism rate for the graduates of these programs seems to be quite high.
The woman is seeking assistance for the son who was the product of this union. Now 22, the young man has been diagnosed with terminal cancer on the one hand and is fighting the Franciscans on the other for help with the medical bills. While they cry poverty and claim they are doing more than the law requires (a familiar battle cry of the Catholic hierarchy), the order is providing some financial assistance until the man turns 23. The priest is doing nothing.
Despite the fact that the order was aware of this man’s playboy lifestyle, it appears that they did not sanction him in any way. In fact, he was successful in being selected for positions of greater authority and responsibility, with the order knowing full well about his extracurricular activities. This guy even was in a position to teach seminarians about how to stay celibate.about his relationships with women. I think he maybe teaching the priests of the future how to score.
This story is not all that surprising, and the fact that the New York Times ran with the story at all is pretty remarkable. But what I found to be the most fascinating bit of information in the story is that a landmark study in 1990 by the scholar A.W. Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine, existed that documented this phenomenon in the church. That study found that 20% of Catholic Priests were involved in “continuing sexual relationships with women” and another 8-10% had “occasional heterosexual relationships”. An earlier study by Sipe concluded that 30% of Catholic priests had a homosexual orientation. Other studies put that number closer to 50%. The studies also suggest that up to 98% of those priests are sexually active.
You do the math. That puts 5-6 out of 10 priests who are sexually active with partners presumably over the age of 18. Throw in the 5-8% who have a pedophilia orientation and it seems that the number of priests living up to their vow of celibacy, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the minority of Catholic Clergy.
It seems to me that the Catholic Church may not be encouraging this kind of behavior, but they are definitely not taking steps to curb it. They are passively accepting it, allowing vulnerable adults and children to be put at risk. The priest in this case was finally suspended from his duties by the Catholic Diocese of Superior over this past weekend according to a brief article by the Duluth News Tribune. I note that the Franciscans were not the organization taking this action.
There are many that will say the woman in this case knew what she was getting into by having a sexual relationship with a priest. It is always easy to blame the woman who seduced the priest away from God. But this is a clear case of a philandering priest (with other girlfriends) taking advantage of his position to push his advances on a woman he was supposed to be counseling. If he was a psychologist, he could lose his license for such behavior. No, the faithful will brand the woman as the one to blame. They will forgive the priest for being “all too human”. There will be no consequences for him. Unfortunately, the damage will continue to permeate every facet of this woman’s life. And in this case, the consequences are visited on the son as well. The son is terminally ill and the father just sloughs it off.
The priest, for his part, did send the young man a card during his medical battle with brain tumors. That has to count for something, right?