Priest from Wilkes-Barre found guilty of child sex abuse
Thomas Shoback, 66, convicted on nine counts and could face essentially a life sentence.
Published: May 01. 2013 12:01AM
Last Modified: May 01. 2013 11:24PM
A Diocese of Scranton priest who was once assigned to several parishes in Luzerne County, including a Catholic high school, has been convicted of sexually assaulting an altar boy.
Diocese officials on Wednesday confirmed that the Rev. Thomas Shoback, 66, of Wilkes-Barre, was convicted Tuesday in Tioga County Court of Common Pleas on nine of the 32 counts with which he had been charged. Most of those counts exceeded the statute of limitations. Still, he reportedly could face essentially a life sentence.
State police had said the assaults took place from 1991 through 1997 when the boy was 11 to 17 years old, while Shoback was assigned at St. Mary’s Parish in Blossburg, Tioga County.
The diocese suspended Shoback in November 2011 when the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.
Diocese spokesman William Genello said the diocese has cooperated with the investigation and prosecution of the criminal case since then.
After receiving the allegations, diocese officials notified the Tioga County District Attorney’s Office, reported the incidents to the Child Line and Abuse Registry operated by the state Department of Public Welfare, removed Shoback from ministry and suspended his faculties to exercise priestly ministries within the diocese, Genello said.
“Now that the criminal justice system has brought this case to closure, the Diocese of Scranton recognizes that the announcement of this verdict will serve as a very painful reminder of the wounds many survivors carry with them, most especially those who were harmed by Father Shoback,” the diocese said in a prepared statement.
Responding to the verdict, Scranton Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said: “At this time, I express my personal sorrow for the pain endured by those who suffered this abuse and extend my apology for any way in which the Church, and particularly its bishops, priests and deacons have failed them.”
He also reaffirmed a personal commitment to exercise vigilance in the protection of children and young people and thanked all who worked diligently to resolve the case.
With the civil law process completed, in accordance with The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Shoback is permanently removed from ecclesiastical ministry and his status as a priest will be referred to the Holy See in Rome for a final determination, Bambera said.
“While Church law has been and will continue to be exercised with regard to this situation, anyone who believes that they have been the victim of child sexual abuse is encouraged to contact law enforcement,” Bambera said. He asked the faithful to pray for the victims of abuse and all seeking healing, reconciliation and peace.
The diocese said Shoback was ordained in 1977 and served as pastor of St. Mary and St. Andrew Parish in Blossburg from February 1989 until July 1997.
He was previously assigned at Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary in Jermyn, Lackawanna County; St. Joseph’s Parish and Sacred Heart Parish, Plains Township; Holy Redeemer Parish, Exeter Township; St. Joseph’s Parish, Hazleton; Nativity BVM, Plymouth Township; the former Bishop Hoban High School, Wilkes-Barre, and parishes in Monroe and Lycoming counties.
Shoback was a teacher at Bishop Hoban from 1984 to 1989.
According to The Times Leader archives, Shoback’s brother, Edward J. Shoback, a former Diocese of Scranton priest who worked for more than 20 years at Luzerne County parishes and schools, was suspended in 2004 amid similar allegations of sexual abuse.
Edward Shoback reportedly admitted to those allegations and was defrocked by the Vatican in 2009.