Monsignor admits sex with teens

Bishop sends letter to parishioners of St. Therese's saying their former priest admitted to "unchaste behavior" with high school girls.

Times Leader, Pensylvania/August 27, 2006
By Dave Janoski

Kingston Twp. – Monsignor J. Peter Crynes, whose resignation for unspecified allegations of "sexual misconduct" shocked parishioners at St. Therese's Church three months ago, has admitted to "unchaste behavior" with "high school girls," according to a letter from Bishop Joseph F. Martino mailed to parishioners this weekend.

Crynes' case will be forwarded to the Vatican, which could permanently bar him from performing Mass and other priestly duties in public or remove him from the priesthood altogether.

Crynes, 64, was widely respected at St. Therese's, one of the Scranton Diocese's largest parishes, for urging parishioners to participate in volunteer work inside and outside of church. Many rallied to his defense when his resignation was announced in May and he quietly vacated the church rectory. Some criticized the diocese for offering scant details about the misconduct alleged by two unidentified women that it said occurred before Crynes came to St. Therese's in 1994.

The bishop's letter, received by parishioners Saturday, offered few new details, except for the fact that the females were in high school when the incidents allegedly occurred. It did not give their ages or the time and location of the alleged misconduct. The legal age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16.

Martino's letter acknowledged some parishioners' displeasure with the diocese regarding the lack of information released in the case:

"However, you know well that in life, some things cannot be made public. We must practice common courtesy and observe the confidentially imposed by the Church's judicial procedures."

In nearly 40 years as a priest, Crynes had several assignments that could have put him in close contact with high school girls. He was assistant director of Camp St. Andrew, a 600-acre children's summer camp near Tunkhannock; assistant director of the former Our Lady of Fatima Retreat Center in Elmhurst, which hosted youth retreats; director of religious formation at Bishop Hannan High School in Scranton and chaplain at the former St. Joseph's Children and Maternity Center, now St. Joseph's Center, in Scranton.

Martino's letter was not publicly mentioned at Saturday's 4:30 p.m. Mass at St. Therese's. After the well-attended Mass, Crynes' replacement, the Rev. James J. Paisley, referred all questions to diocesan spokesman William Genello, who could not be reached for comment.

Several parishioners who had voiced support for Crynes in the past either declined comment or did not return phone messages Saturday.

Crynes could not be reached for comment.

At least 25 priests in the Scranton Diocese have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors since 1950, a Times Leader series published in July reported. The diocese has spent more than $800,000 in legal fees, settlements and medical and counseling costs for victims in such cases.

Criminal charges have been filed against two diocesan priests since 1991. Both pleaded guilty to molesting young boys. One was recently defrocked by the Vatican. The other died in prison in 1994.

The diocese is defending itself against two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Scranton by men who claim they were abused by those two priests when they were minors. Both suits allege diocesan officials were aware of prior allegations against the priests, but allowed them to continue to serve in diocesan schools and churches.

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