Churchgoers Shocked After Their Pastor Is Arrested for Sex Crimes

Churchgoers in Cresco, Pennsylvania were shocked leaving Sunday morning mass after they were informed that their Pastor had been arrested for alleged sex crimes against a minor.

Father Gregory Loughney was arrested Friday by the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department and charged with four counts connected to alleged inappropriate contact with a minor after a successful internet sting operation.

According to police, Loughney believed he was communicating with a 15-year-old boy he met through Tinder. He continued to communicate with the minor on a text free app and "talked about performing sexual acts on whom he believed was a 15-year-old minor male named 'Cyrus.'"

Loughney also said the boy should bring his friend so they could all "get sexually intimate together," according to a press release from police. Allegedly Loughney arranged to meet up with the boy at a local business on Friday when he was arrested at the scene.

After his arrest, Loughney told police that he cooked dinner and baked cookies for the boy and his friend. He also acknowledged that he talked to the minor in a sexual nature.

Loughney was arraigned on Saturday morning on charges of criminal attempt of statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors. He also faces charges for indecent assault on someone younger than 16 and criminal use of a communication facility.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States, nearly two out of three child victims are between the ages of 12 and 17. RAINN also reported that perpetrators of sexual violence oftentimes know their victim and that out of every 1,000 of these perpetrators, 520 will be released while awaiting trial.

"These things are unpredictable; you never know when it happens," parishioner Estelle Yessoh told WNEP. "It is really sad to hear it, but we are all human, and as a Christian, we always say, you know, we get tempted by the devil."

Members of the church said Loughney had been part of their community for years and that he was supportive and loving of all the families.

"I hope it's not true because nothing like that should be happening," Marie Herd told WNEP. "Father Gregory, he's very, very nice. I don't know what's going on, what happened."

During Sunday morning's sermon, a priest read a statement that Loughney was removed from active ministry by the Diocese of Scranton, pending the outcome of the investigation.

"That transparency, I would say, gave us some type of safe feeling, that nothing is hidden from us and that we are protected no matter what," Yessoh told WNEP.

Pastor charged with sex crimes against minor
Pastor Gregory Loughney, 42, was charged with four counts related to inappropriate contact with a minor after he allegedly thought he was meeting up with a 15-year-old boy he met on Tinder. Parishioners were shocked to learn of the charges after being told during a sermon on Sunday. DanHenson1/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Scranton Diocese released a statement about Loughney's arrest.

"Learning the details of the behavior with which Father Loughney has been charged is extremely upsetting," Bishop Bambera said in the statement. "In no way is this alleged behavior to be tolerated in the life and ministry of a priest."

The statement also said that parishes, schools, and diocesan facilities where Loughney ministered must be notified about the charges brought against him.

Loughney was brought to the Monroe County Correctional Facility but was released after he paid the $75,000 bail. He is due to appear in court again on November 4.