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Friday, March 22, 2002
Paciorek says his siblings were abused as well

Associated Press

DETROIT -- Former major league baseball player Tom Paciorek says he and three of his brothers were molested when they were children by a priest who was removed this week from another Michigan church.

The brothers grew up just outside Hamtramck on Detroit's east side and attended Hamtramck St. Ladislaus, where the Rev. Gerald Shirilla was a teacher.

Shirilla was removed Wednesday from St. Mary Catholic Church in Alpena, in northern Michigan, where he accepted an assignment last August.

Shirilla, 63, has not responded to repeated requests for comment. His attorney, Michael Smith, told the Detroit Free Press that the priest has done nothing that would make him unfit for ministry.

Paciorek said he lodged a complaint about Shirilla with the Roman Catholic Archidocese of Detroit in 1993 after another former student filed a lawsuit about the priest. The archdiocese placed Shirilla on administrative leave in response and prohibited him from public ministry.

However, the lawsuit was dismissed in 1999 because the statue of limitation had run out; state law required victims abused as minors to file for monetary civil damages before they turned 19.

Paciorek, 55, said he was surprised when he heard Shirilla had been hired in Alpena.

"I was molested by him for a period of four years," Paciorek said this week in Kissimmee, Fla., where he is covering the Atlanta Braves training camp for Fox Sports Net. "I would refer to them as attacks. I would say there was at least a hundred of them."

The former All-Star said he didn't tell anyone because no one would have believed him.

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

Shirilla had the trust of Paciorek's parents and would pick the boy up and take him to Sacred Heart Seminary.

"There were times, so many times, I just wanted to say. `Listen, just leave me alone. Get away from me.' I rehearsed it and rehearsed it," Paciorek said. He said the abuse continued until he graduated and left for the University of Houston.

Paciorek went on to have a long, successful baseball career, from 1970 to 1987, but said he still suffered emotionally.

He and his brothers had kept the abuse secret, even from each other, until the early 1980s, when Michael Paciorek, the fourth of five boys in the family, started making comments about Shirilla.

"I told them what he used to do to me. And all of a sudden, it went from being funny to being not so funny," said Michael Paciorek, now 47. "I first became a victim of his when I was 8, 9 or 10 years old."

Bobby Paciorek, now 51, the third of the five brothers, related similar memories of abuse. He said it began when he was in seventh or eighth grade. Only the youngest brother said he was not molested by Shirilla.

Allegations of child sexual abuse by priests gained national attention in January when documents revealed that Boston church officials had ignored abuse allegations against a former priest convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy. Since then, dozens of priests across the country out of more than 47,000 nationwide having been suspended or forced to resign.