PA priest Monsignor Thomas Derzack was dressed in plain clothes when he attended a wrestling tournament at Bethlehem Catholic High School late last December. That’s when, according to Bethlehem police and the Pennsylvania diocese, he was caught photographing the boys from behind. A police officer present at the event noticed Derzack’s behavior, confronted him, and had him delete the photos from his camera. He then left the school.
The Diocese has since removed Derzack, age 70, from his position in the ministry while the investigation is ongoing. The Church is also said to be cooperating with that investigation. Derzack has been banned from church events and is not allowed on school property while the investigation is ongoing.
The case is just the latest in a sea of accusations against priests across the country, even as the effects of a bombshell investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice continue to ripple through the Roman Catholic Church. What started as an investigation into abuses taking place in Pennsylvania soon became a multijurisdictional nightmare for the Diocese, as states including Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, and others launched their own investigations into the Church and its systematic cover-up of that abuse.
The investigation was launched in the wake of a 900-page grand jury report released in August of 2018 which detailed credible allegations against more than 300 priests in the Pennsylvania diocese for the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children since the 1940s.
The issue has also led several states to pass legislation that increases the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and speak out against their abusers. California is the latest to take such action and now gives survivors of sexual abuse until the age of 40 to bring legal action against their abuser. The law previously only provided a window until the age of 26. In addition, the passing of the new legislation provides a three-year window for any and all survivors to come forward with new charges against any abuser, regardless of how long ago the abuse might have occurred.