Father Robert Caparelli
Diocese of Scranton
Inpatient Treatment: 1968, 1991
Criminal charges: 1991, 1993
Assigned as follows:
- 1964: Queen of Peace (Hawley, PA)
- 1964-1967: St. Francis (Nanticoke, PA)
- 1967-1968: Most Precious Blood (Hazleton, PA)
- 1968-1974: St. Mary (Old Forge, PA)
- 1974-1981: Mercy Center (Dallas, PA)
- 1981-1991: St. Vincent (Milford, PA)
Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Robert Caparelli:
Fr. Robert Caparelli’s abuse history in the Diocese of Scranton was so notorious that the 2018 grand jury selected it as a case study in how the Diocese of Scranton covered-up abuse allegations and placed parishioners at great risk without any kind of warning.
In 1968, less than four years after Caparelli became a priest, a police officer in Hazleton wrote Bishop J. Carroll McCormick that Caparelli was abusing two brothers – ages 11 and 12 – “in a manner that is not natural for any human that has all his proper faculties.” He had received information directly from the mother of the boys and hoped that McCormick would address it since she was afraid her husband would kill Caparelli if he found out about it. In closing his letter, the officers referenced “other situations” with Caparelli, and that they could all lead to violence if not addressed.
Several days later, the pastor of the parish (Most Precious Blood) also wrote to the Bishop, seemingly in response to an inquiry from the bishop. In his response, the pastor reminded the bishop that he had referred the problem to the bishop more than six months earlier, and that “this problem is too big for me. It has grown into something that is unbelievable. In other words, all that this gentleman writes is true…but there is so much that is missing, and all very, very serious.” McCormick’s eventual successor as bishop, James Timlin, was also already aware of the situation too.
In late 1968, another parishioner wrote to the Bishop that “we tolerated all this but it is now a known fact in Hazleton that he is demoralizing young boys especially those that serve as altar boys.”
Several months later, in October 1968, Caparelli was finally confronted with the allegation and admitted to acting “too freely” with altar boys, but denied “anything immoral.” He begged not to be removed from ministry permanently. The bishop wrote off the allegations as “exaggeration” and sent Caparelli to a retreat house until he could be reassigned. According to media reports, he underwent a psychological evaluation aimed at clearing him for a return to ministry. Not long after, Caparelli was assigned to St. Mary’s in Old Forge.
He abused at least one boy at St. Mary’s, according to a lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Scranton in 2005. The boy, then six years old, lived near the home of Caparelli’s parents and Caparelli often brought the boy to visit them. He reportedly told the boy that priests were allowed to do those types of things to boys and intimidated him into not telling his parents.
In 1974, a state trooper told the St. Mary’s pastor that he had information Caparelli was sexually abusing several boys. When confronted by the pastor, Caparelli confessed to the allegations. Within a year, Caparelli was transferred to a new assignment: Director of Religious Formation at Bishop O’Reilly High School.
In 1991, a 19-year-old man reported to state police that he had been molested by Fr. Caparelli on at least a dozen occasions as a child, beginning in 1985 at age 13. He was an altar boy at St. Vincent at the urging of his family, after the family moved from out-of-state. He later filed suit against the Diocese of Scranton, and for the first time revealed publicly that Caparelli was HIV-positive. Caparelli admitted to the diagnosis during the criminal case.
It was also revealed that he was sent to the notorious pedophile priest treatment center, St. Luke Institute, by the Diocese of Scranton, shortly before his arrest in 1991. Letters to the Diocese indicate he admitted that he was a sex addict who minimized the abusive nature of sexual contact with children.
Several more men came forward in the months and years after Caparelli’s arrest to report their own abuse by the priest. He plead guilty in the 1991 charges, and to the second set of charges, including sodomy, leveled by a second boy in 1993.
New Charges Against Fr. Caparelli
In June 2020, there were new charges against Fr. Caparelli. A 56-year-old man claims Fr. Caparelli sexually assaulted him in the mid-1970s when he was between the ages of 10 and 13 at Sacred Heart Church in Luzerne, PA. The victim is seeking punitive damages and a jury trial.
According to the lawsuit filed, the victim met Caparelli while serving as an altar boy at the Luzerne’s church. Fr. Caparelli told him, “his actions were acceptable because he liked him, and he was ‘special.'” The suit also claims the Diocese of Scranton knew of Caparelli’s sexual interest in boys.
Caparelli died in December 1994, presumably from complications of AIDS. Thanks to two of his very brave (and young) victims, he spent the last 2 ½ years of his life in prison.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Scranton. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Scranton now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or firstname.lastname@example.org today.