Priest sacked from ministry for taking ‘disturbing’ pictures of high school wrestlers
A Pennsylvania priest has been removed from St Nicholas Parish after he was seen taking photos of high school wrestlers.
Reverend Thomas A Derzack, 70, was caught taking photos in the Bethlehem Catholic High School gym during a wrestling tournament without consent or knowledge.
He was reported to the police after a witness at the gym noticed Derzack taking zoomed-in photos of the students from behind. A criminal investigation was launched and the police confronted Derzack at the tournament.
He agreed to delete the photos of the high school wrestlers and left the premises immediately after, but was not arrested. The police have said that no charges will be filed against as the Derzack did not break any laws.
The photos were taken in a public place, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, and no photos involved nudity.
However, the act was deemed to be “disturbing” by the Northampton County District Attorney but not “criminal”.
The diocese decided that the priest should be removed for violating acceptable behaviour standards outlined by the church. Derzack will face a full criminal investigation and an independent panel will decide whether the removal is permanent.
Paul Wirth, a spokesman for the diocese, said, “The behaviour is disturbing, especially for a priest. But the response to it shows our child protection protocols at work. A vigilant adult saw something suspicious and reported it, the authorities addressed it immediately, and the Bishop removed the priest from ministry.”
The church, both in the United States and the UK, has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse going back decades. Pennsylvania in particular was criticised in 2018 for its handling of paedophile priests and sexual misconduct among the diocese.