SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Four men have come forward saying they were abused by a priest in the 1970s when they were young boys.
These men say they came forward after they read the statewide grand jury report last year that detailed alleged abuse by priests in the Scranton Diocese for decades. They say they have been living with a deep dark secret their entire lives.
“It weighed on my mind, my soul, my everything, for 40 years and through the course of my life it just came out,” James Pliska said.
Pliska says he finally had to say something to someone about the sexual abuse he says he endured at the hands of Father Michael Pulicare.
“I was pretty much called a liar. Pulicare was dead at the time when I came out and told my story to my family,” Pliska said.
Pulicare died in 1999. He had been assistant pastor at the then-Saint Joseph’s Church in the Minooka section of Scranton. Pliska learned that three other men, all who were his friends, suffered the same abuse from Pulicare. Today, they all filed lawsuits against the Scranton Diocese claiming the Diocese did not do enough to protect children and in fact allegedly took steps to cover up the abuse. Pliska says it was not easy coming forward.
“Before this, I would be able to take it and bury it, put it aside in a safe place but it would fester and come up and cause problems,” Pliska said.
Michael Heil says when he and his friends started talking about the abuse, it was like a heavy weight was lifted off all of their shoulders.
“It’s just amazing when we talk to each other how similar the stories were, what Pulicare did with us, how he molested us,” Heil said.
Heil says, like his friends, he struggled with his secret his entire life.
“I buried it deep. I mean it caused a lot of pain and anguish for me. I stopped doing religion. I stopped going to church, stopped trusting people in the church, stopped trusting anyone with my kids other than people I knew and trusted and my friends,” Heil said.
Lawyers for the four men say the Scranton Diocese, including former Bishop James Timlin and current Bishop Joseph Bambera did not do enough to prevent abuse back in the 1970s or in recent years. But a statement released by the Diocese Wednesday states that as soon as they were made aware of the Pulicare allegations in 2018, the Diocese contacted law enforcement. But the Diocese says they have not been formally served with the lawsuit and will not comment further.