The Pittsburg Post-Gazette has reported that a former priest has been arrested for filling a teen boy under a bathroom stall at the East Liberty Target located at 6231 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.
Court documents revealed that on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 77-year-old Paul George Spisak was arrested for filming a 13-year-old boy through a crack in the bathroom stall in the department store. Spisak, a former priest of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, attempted to flee before being apprehended by an officer. At first, he denied the allegation but later admitted to filming the child without his permission. Spisak also admitted to having additional photos of other male victims.
According to the Survivors Network, SNAP, this is not the first time Spisak has been charged with sexual misconduct. As far back as 1998, the former Catholic priest was accused of possessing pornographic magazines, tapes, and internet material that depicted sexual activity. These included sexual acts of both homosexual and sadomasochistic natures. The staff alleged that Spisak also had multiple pictures of boys as young as 15 with their buttocks showing. The staff member's son also accused the former priest of inappropriately fondling him during a summer trip. An investigation by the Diocese found that Spisak had:
Despite these findings and requests by multiple Diocese members, he was reassigned to St. Mary of Mercy with his duties expanded.
In 2002, Spisak resigned from his role as a priest due to personal reasons. However, the Diocese officially prohibited his return to the priesthood in 2003, to the sexual abuse allegations.
In 2006, he was arrested and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He was forced to pay a $300 fine and provide a letter from his therapist stating his therapy was ongoing. Police reports, obtained by Special Agents in the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General in 2017, noted that a complaint was filed against Spisak for using a camera to record a man's buttocks. As he was being questioned by security, he pretended to be sick and flushed the memory card in the toilet. During an interview with police in 2017, he admitted to recording the victim and that he had a "sexual fixation with the male buttocks."
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is an experienced sexual abuse victim lawyer in the state of Pennsylvania. Brian represents victims of sexual abuse and their families in civil lawsuits. In an interview, we asked Brian to share his thoughts regarding the rights of victims sexually abused by a priest.
“Too often, sexual predators take positions of trust and power in a religious organization with the intent to commit abuse. These predators gain the trust of both victims and their parents, in addition to their parish. This exploitation has plagued all religious organizations, including the Catholic Diocese, as numerous religious leaders have been charged with sexually abusing congregation members. Churches and their officials are legally obligated to do their best to keep their member’s safety a top priority by implementing preventatives to reduce predators within the organization. This may entail conducting background checks on all members, installing security throughout the property, and by taking reports of misconduct seriously. Failure to have safety measures in place can lead to the religious organization being held accountable for the abuse that takes place.”
“A church and its religious officials can be held liable for not upholding the safety of its members. Many times sexual abuse and misconduct only occur due to negligence of the religious organization. One such example might include if reports or complaints were filed against an active clergy member, yet the religious officials ignored the allegations. In cases of church negligence, the religious organization may be considered negligent and victims, along with their families, may have grounds for a lawsuit.”