Baseball star claims abuse by priest

March 22, 2002 at 12:07 PM
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DETROIT, March 22 (UPI) -- Former baseball all-star outfielder Tom Paciorek says in a published report he was molested by a Catholic priest.

Paciorek, 55, who is covering the Atlanta Braves training camp for Fox SportsNet, said the worst of the abuse came when he was just 16 and spent a weekend with the Rev. Gerald Shirilla.

"For 72 hours, I felt like I was under constant attack," Paciorek, who grew up on Detroit's east side, told Friday's Detroit Free Press. "It was relentless. I mean I felt like I was a prisoner at his house ... I remember saying in a moment of silence when I maybe slept just a couple of hours, 'God, is this ever going to end? When is it ever going to end?'"

Most of Paciorek's brothers also say they were abused by Sharilla, 63, who had been a friend of the family, when they were students at St. Ladislaus. The brothers did not discuss the abuse among themselves or with their parents until the 1980s.

Sharilla was removed this week from his duties at St. Mary Catholic Church in Alpena by the Archdiocese of Detroit, which decided it had credible proof he had molested teenage boys nine years ago.

Paciorek said the first incident occurred when Sharilla volunteered to teach him how to drive. While practicing on Belle Isle, Sharilla allegedly began fondling Paciorek's genitals.

Paciorek, choking back tears, said he didn't know what he should do after the incident.

"When you're a kid and you're not able to articulate, who's going to believe you? The church back then was so powerful. There's nothing that a kid could do," he said.

Paciorek said the abuse continued until he graduated high school and left for the University of Houston on a football scholarship.

Paciorek said though he had a successful baseball, and subsequent broadcasting, career, the alleged abuse took a toll. He said he still has problems with trust and intimacy, and separated from his wife 11 years ago. He first went for therapy 15 years ago.

Sharilla was ordered to a treatment facility in 1993 where he received drug therapy and counseling. It is unclear where Sharilla has been since he was discharged from the facility in 1994. He was hired in Alpena in August.

"This is no conspiracy. This is the truth," said Paciorek, who added he still believes in God and the church, and wants his grandchildren to attend Catholic school. "I'm going to live in this truth and we're going to do the right thing. I start thinking about children and I just don't want anybody to have to go through what we did, my brothers and I."

Paciorek started his baseball career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1970 and ended with Texas Rangers in 1987. In between, he played for Seattle, Atlanta, the Chicago White Sox and the New York Mets, posting a .282 batting average in 18 seasons.

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