More than 1,000 children identified in PA priest abuse case, grand jury finds
Two Pennsylvania priests accused of sexually abusing children may have committed crimes in South Carolina, including on Hilton Head Island and in Myrtle Beach, according to a Pennsylvania grand jury report.
The 1,356-page report, which was released last week, alleges seven decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups by Catholic church officials and names more than 300 “predator priests” accused of abusing more than 1,000 children throughout Pennsylvania.
Reverend Mauro James Cautela — who served in the Catholic church from May 1974 until he died of a heart attack at age 57 in 2005 — is accused of bringing minors on overnight trips to Hilton Head.
In August 2005, a man met with Diocesan officials and said that Cautela sexually abused him between 1998 and 2005 when he was between 12 and 19 years old. The man wrote a 10-page letter detailing the abuse, according to the report.
Two days after the Diocesan received the victim’s letter, the New Castle Police Department received a complaint of unauthorized dumping in their dumpster, the report said.
“The trash contained VHS tapes and DVDs of nude wrestling and homosexual pornography, at least 23 envelopes addressed to Cautela and a framed photograph of the victim and his two siblings,” a police report said.
The Diocese told the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office about the allegations, and a Pennsylvania State Police trooper interviewed the victim.
In the police report, the trooper wrote in August 2001 that Cautela took the victim and two other minors to Hilton Head.
Before the trip, Cautela told the victim he would have his own room, but once they got to the Hilton Head condo, they had to share a king-sized bed, the police report said.
“When the victim went to sleep in the same bed as Cautela, he began to” touch the victim’s back and genitals, the police report said. The victim left the bed and slept on the couch for the remainder of the trip.
The police report details other instances Cautela abused the victim, including being very “insistent on applying sunscreen to the victim” during their trips to Hilton Head, “exposing the victim to homosexual pornography,” asking the victim to help with a computer and making him “sit on his lap while he worked” and massaging the victim on numerous occasions when he was lifting weights.
Cautela would give the victim gifts, provide him with alcohol and visit the boy at home when his parents were not there, the report said.
Cautela also was alleged to have used money from the church, including donations, to “further some of his relationships with young boys as well as purchase homosexual pornography on church computers,” the report said.
In November 2003, another victim left a voicemail for Cautela about the allegations he had against him, the report said. Cautela told another priest, who said the allegations were forwarded to the district attorney’s office, but “records revealed … a case number was never assigned to the matter out of respect for Cautela,” the report said.
The trooper interviewed this victim, who said he was abused by Cautela between 1975 and 1981 in the church and during overnight trips in Pennsylvania.
Similar to the Hilton Head trips, Cautela brought the victim and other minors to a cabin where they all slept in the same bed and Cautela inappropriately touched the boys, the report said.
The Pennsylvania State Police noted three potential charges against Cautela:
▪ Endangering the welfare of children.
▪ Corruption of minors.
▪ Indecent assault, the report said.
Cautela asked the Diocese to postpone his evaluations for two months, which they did, the report said.
In December 2005, the FBI agreed to file federal charges in connection with the incidents that occurred outside of Pennsylvania, but Cautela died of a heart attack that month, “thus concluding the criminal investigation,” the report said.
Six months after his death, the victim who alleged abuse on Hilton Head filed a civil law suit against the Diocese saying that despite knowing about Cautela’s history of sexually abusing children, the officials never contacted law enforcement or youth services; did not suspend Cautela from his priestly duties or contact with children; did not warn parishioners at the church that Cautela posed a risk to children; and did not conduct an investigation to determine the identify of other children sexually abused, the report said.
In November 2006, the victim signed a full and final release document “releasing the Diocese of Pittsburgh of responsibility for the abuse” and the Diocese paid the victim a quarter of a million dollars, the report said.
Father Gregory F. Premoshis — who served in the Catholic Church from May 1968 until he retired in 2002 following allegations — was accused of similar allegations, including taking a boy he abused between 1980 and 1982 when he was 16 or 17 years old on overnight trips throughout the East Coast, including to Myrtle Beach, the grand jury report said.
Premoshis made the boy sleep in the bed with him and inappropriately touched and “fondled” the victim, according to the report.
The State reported Father Robert E. Spangenberg, who had two sexual allegations against him, previously worked as a pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Charleston from 1990 to 1993.
News outlets reported the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston issued a statement responding to Spangenberg’s name being in the grand jury report.
“To the best of our knowledge, there is no record of any allegations of misconduct made against Father Spangenberg while he was assigned to the parish,” the statement said.
Spangenberg died in 2006.