LANSFORD, Pa. - A Roman Catholic priest was charged with public lewdness at a nude beach in New Jersey over the summer, weeks before leaving his post at an eastern Pennsylvania church, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Parishioners at St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Carbon County were told that Monsignor Lawrence J. Bukaty, 58, stepped down as their pastor in late July for health reasons.
Court documents indicate that Bukaty was charged with public lewdness in June after a park ranger saw him fondling himself at clothing-optional Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook, N.J., The Morning Call of Allentown reported.
Bukaty pleaded guilty July 30 to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct and agreed to pay a $525 fine and stay out of Sandy Hook, according to court records.
Matt Kerr, a spokesman for the Diocese of Allentown, said parishioners were told that Bukaty stepped down for health reasons because the priest does indeed have health problems.
Kerr said Bukaty is in a treatment center, but could not say what kind of treatment he's getting. He said he wasn't aware of any other allegations of wrongdoing against Bukaty, who was ordained in 1976 and named a monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI in February.
In addition to his post in Lansford, Bukaty has served churches in Emmaus and Mahanoy City and was a teacher at a Catholic high school in Ashland.