Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Diocese Addresses 'Dancing Priest' Allegation

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Diocese Addresses 'Dancing Priest' Allegation

Article excerpt

The Rev. Thomas Smith, known as the "Singing and Dancing Priest" for his Broadway-seasoned "theatrical evangelism," is now among the latest subjects of allegations of sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh sent letters this month to various parishes where the late Father Smith served, informing them of an allegation of sexual abuse against the priest, who died in 2015 at age 90.

During one of the listening sessions held by Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik in early December in response to the grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic priests, one of the attendees who spoke identified him as her abuser.

She said the abuse occurred in 1967, when she was 15 or 16 years old and a student at St. Anselm High School in Swissvale, where Father Smith worked as a priest.

At a school dance, when the lights were lowered for a slow dance, she said that "Father Tom Smith, the dancing priest who everybody thought was such a great person, came up and grabbed my breasts and played with them. ... I was stunned.

"Could I go back and tell my mother the priest molested me?" she said. "No." Her father had recently died, and her mother was coping with grief while also taking care of her brother, who was ill.

She said during that trying time, she had, until the incident, found a refuge at the school. "What he did was, he took away my safe place."

She identified herself by her full name at the hearing. In a follow-up phone interview, she asked to go by her first name and initial, Denise S., for this article to spare any embarrassment to her relatives.

The Rev. Nicholas Vaskov, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said that during the week of Dec. …

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