Convicted Priest Seeks PR Help; A Somerset County Priest Awaiting Sentencing on Charges He Traveled Overseas to Molest Orphaned Boys Maintains His Innocence and Is Soliciting Public Relations Firms to Tell His Story, Drawing the Ire of a National Support Group for Clergy-Abuse Survivors. [Derived Headline]

By Zemba, Liz | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 23, 2015 | Go to article overview

Convicted Priest Seeks PR Help; A Somerset County Priest Awaiting Sentencing on Charges He Traveled Overseas to Molest Orphaned Boys Maintains His Innocence and Is Soliciting Public Relations Firms to Tell His Story, Drawing the Ire of a National Support Group for Clergy-Abuse Survivors. [Derived Headline]


Zemba, Liz, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


A Somerset County priest awaiting sentencing on charges he traveled overseas to molest orphaned boys maintains his innocence and is soliciting public relations firms to tell his story, drawing the ire of a national support group for clergy-abuse survivors.

The Rev. Joseph D. Maurizio Jr., 70, is to be sentenced in February on federal charges he used a self-run charity based in Johnstown -- Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries -- to visit a Honduran orphanage numerous times between 1999 and 2009, promising candy and cash to boys to watch them shower, have sex or fondle them.

His attorney, Steven Passarello of Altoona, on Wednesday confirmed Maurizio is seeking help from public relations firms.

In September, Maurizio was convicted of engaging or attempting to engage in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, possessing child pornography and money laundering.

"He is desirous of getting his side of the story out because he has maintained his innocence throughout, notwithstanding the jury's verdict, but believes he was wrongfully convicted," Passarello said.

Citing an article on Maurizio's efforts that appeared Tuesday in the online trade publication www.everything-pr.com, the director of St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, urged public relations firms to refuse to help.

"A convicted predator priest is apparently hiring a public relations firm in advance of his sentencing," David Clohessy said in a statement. "We hope his bishop prevents him from doing this or that no firm accepts his offer."

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown suspended Maurizio in September 2014 after federal prosecutors filed charges. Tony DeGol, diocesan spokesman, said Maurizio remains suspended from public ministry. He declined additional comment.

In a five-page letter to unidentified public relations firms obtained by the Tribune-Review, Passarello describes Maurizio as "an American political prisoner" whose "civil rights as an American citizen have been violated by multiple international government agencies. …

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Convicted Priest Seeks PR Help; A Somerset County Priest Awaiting Sentencing on Charges He Traveled Overseas to Molest Orphaned Boys Maintains His Innocence and Is Soliciting Public Relations Firms to Tell His Story, Drawing the Ire of a National Support Group for Clergy-Abuse Survivors. [Derived Headline]
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