BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
Those heading into Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Dallas Sunday morning got a pair of surprises.
About 100 yards shy of the church at 420 Main Street, a group of about two dozen protestors had put out about 100 yard signs which implied the church was not doing enough to protect children.
And, despite a sign on its front lawn noting “A warm welcome awaits you,” Rev. Joseph Rafferty announced at the outset of the morning service that the boiler was broken and he apologized for a cold sanctuary.
Rev. Rafferty had less than a half hour before stood in 40-degree weather and learned from organizer Shawn Considine of Colorado that the protestors were mostly concerned about a member of the Prince of Peace congregation who might still have access to children.
Considine said he was concerned about Ed Driesbach, 84, whose name last fall publicly appeared on a “perversion file” long kept secret by the Boy Scouts of America.
Driesbach was among thousands of men and a few women nationwide who had been banned by the Boy Scouts based on allegations of sexual misconduct.
In documents now available online (see http://documents.latimes.com/boy-scouts-paper-trail-of-abuse-documents/) it is clear that the Boy Scouts took action in 1989 after three men, former members of Troop 336 based in Center Moreland, contacted Scout executives and alleged they had been subjected to fondling and oral sex by Dreisbach, both at his home and while on Scout trips.
Although the Falls man was never charged with a crime in connection with the 1989 report, Scout executives determined there was sufficient evidence to revoke his registration.
The Wyoming County District Attorney’s office in June of 2012 launched its own investigation after one of the alleged victims from the 1970s, Tunkhannock native Robert Smalanskas, went public about his alleged abuse.
Smalanskas, 52, now of Lewisberry, claims Dreisbach repeatedly sexually abused him from age 10 to 14 between 1970 and 1974, and that he knows of other Scouts who were abused.
Smalanskas was one of the three who reported Dreisbach to the Boy Scouts in 1989, but he never went to police.
“I had him removed from the Boy Scouts, but unfortunately, I let it go after that,” he said. “That still haunts me to this day.”
Although Considine said Sunday he was not one of those sexually abused, he was a Boy Scout at the time, and he lay awake a summer ago after the Jerry Sandusky trial asking himself how people close to Sandusky’s victims could not report such abuses.
And, then he realized he was one of those people who had not been reporting victimization by a different person.
Then, about three weeks later he learned of a website Smalanskas had started, revisitingthebeast.com, that included a narrative of the abuse he alleges to have endured from Dreisbach.
“It all came back to me,” Considine said Sunday, knowing of similar incidents in the 1970s but trying to look the other way.
Fast forward to 16 months later on Sunday and Considine said he really appreciated Rev. Rafferty’s willingness to hear him and his friends out.
.Considine told the pastor there was an imperative to protect children, and there was a concern given that Dreisbach had served Prince of Peace as acolyte master- a position that involves overseeing congregants, often children, who provide ceremonial services, such as lighting altar candles – that the potential remained for someone to be victimized.
Rev. Rafferty said he felt he understood that and parents were made aware of that a year or more ago.
He also said that he was also trying to filter the gospel and “there is the matter of forgiveness.”
Considine asked the pastor if that caused him to ignore the victims- “those still seriously hurting from years of victimization.”
“I don’t know what else I can say,” Rev. Rafferty said. “I will fight for the protection of children, and I really want you to hear that.”
“I promise you I will say that in my message today,” he said.
He arrived at the sanctuary ahead of its 9:30 start time, and despite the boiler issue, eventually launched into his message based on a New Testament parable that Jesus told about a persistent woman whom an allegedly unjust judge finally agreed to hear out because she wouldn’t quit nagging.
“You have to understand that women in that day were voiceless and powerless,” Rev. Rafferty told about 75 assembled.
“Jesus was trying to teach his followers about persistence and it gives us a strong image and lesson about prayer and to never lose faith,” he said.
And then he spoke of the young Muslim girl, Malala, who had been shot in the head for trying to share her Muslim faith.
“She has become the inspiration all over the world for girls to speak up,” he said, adding that faith can be found in unexpected places.
And then Rev. Rafferty noted, “I guess you may have seen there’s a rally just down the road from here and they’re trying to address the reality of child abuse and the victims who often suffer in silence.”
He added, “We should stand with them against child abuse and make sure that safeguards are in place for all of God’s children.”
“I want you to know this is not a space fight,” Rev. Rafferty said. “We are not against them. We must be passionate in our prayers and insistent and persistent in our efforts to protect all of our children.”
Following church, Samalanskas, who did not attend the worship service but stayed with the protestors, encountered Dreisbach in the church’s parking lot.
“Why don’t you just confess to the world what you did all those years and ask forgiveness?” Smalanskas asked.
“Confess for what,” Dreisbach said.
“So you’re going to carry your arrogance to the grave?” Smalanskas asked.
“I suppose,” Driesbach answered.
Wyoming County Chief Detective David Ide said that the district attorney’s office in Tunkhannock remains interested in the investigation despite the fact the statute of limitations has passed on some of the older alleged victims. He may be reached at 996-2282.