Priest found guilty of molesting child

WELLSBORO – Thomas Shoback, 66, of Wilkes-Barre, a former Tioga County priest charged with sexual abuse of a child, was convicted in Tioga County Court Wednesday, according to a report from WETM teleision in Elmira, N.Y.

Shoback was found guilty on nine counts. He originally faced 32 counts, but most had passed the statute of limitations, the report said. According to state police, the incidents took place between 1991 and 1997 while he was a priest at St. Mary’s Parish in Blossburg. The victim is a former alter boy.

Shoback now could face up to 100 years in prison, the report said. He will be sentenced at a later date.

In earlier testimony reported in the Sun-Gazette, the victim told the court that Shoback began abusing him when he was 11 or 12 years old and that the abuse would happen three out of four Sundays each month when he stayed after Mass to help count the collection.

He spoke in detail, testifying that Shoback would start by touching his genitals outside his clothes, then placing his hands down his pants and fondling him, then performing oral sex on him.

He also testified that on two occasions he was laying in bed naked with Shoback and that the priest attempted to sodomize him. He said the assaults took place either at the church rectory or at Shoback’s cabin in Farmington Township.

The victim testified that he felt “controlled” by Shoback if he didn’t spend time with him and do the things the priest wanted. He said Shoback would become angry, but that he never threatened him.

He said the relationship continued sporadically even after Shoback left St. Mary’s and was transferred to a Montoursville parish, when he would go there to do odd jobs for the priest.

He said he never told anyone about the abuse, not his parents, older brother or even the woman to whom he now is married, until last November when he called the Diocese of Scranton to report the alleged abuse.

He said he felt compelled to tell what had happened to him after the Jerry Sandusky scandal erupted “because it was the right thing to do and he didn’t want it to happen to another kid.”

The victim said he denied there had been any sexual assaults in a 2006 telephone interview with someone from the Diocese, because, he said, he was “embarrassed and ashamed” and didn’t want to go through what he is going through now.

He also was about to get married, he said.

The victim said he had no plans to sue the diocese or anyone else.

The victim said he attended religious education and was involved in Catholic youth groups while the alleged abuse was taking place. He also would work at the church after school and during the summers doing odd jobs and cleaning the rectory for an hourly wage.

He also testified that Shoback bought him gifts on a regular basis and would take him to the mall to shop, paying for everything including an all-terrain vehicle.

The Diocese of Scranton released the following statement Wednesday evening concerning Shoback:

“… 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.

In response to the verdict, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton, reacted, “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. I also reaffirm my personal commitment to exercise vigilance in our protection of children and young people and offer my sincere gratitude to all who worked so diligently to resolve this case.

“With the civil law process completed, in accordance with The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Father Shoback is permanently removed from ecclesiastical ministry and his status as a priest will be referred to the Holy See for a final determination. 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.

“Finally, I ask the faithful of the Diocese to join their prayers with mine to pray for the continued healing for all those impacted by child sexual abuse and all who search for healing, reconciliation and peace during this difficult time.”

The diocese initially reported information about Shoback in November 2011. He was charged by state police in June 2012, according to an earlier Sun-Gazette story, and was arraigned before a district judge on June 20 of last year. He waived his county court arraignment on Aug. 20.

According to an earlier Associated Press report, Shoback’s brother, Edward, also was a priest and was defrocked by the Vatican in 2009 on charges of alleged sexual contact with minors.