Philadelphia police are investigating a man for posing as a Catholic priest and allegedly comforting the family of an officer critically injured last month during a car stop.
Paul Schlear, 26, of Northeast Philadelphia, dressed as a priest and entered the intensive-care unit at Aria Health-Torresdale Campus to visit the family of Officer Richard Hayes, police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said today.
Vanore said the hospital episode was being investigated by Northeast Detectives, but what charges Schlear may face will be up to the District Attorney's Office.
Schlear also appeared dressed in white clergy garb - an alb - at the funerals of two officers, Sgt. Patrick McDonald in September and Officer John Pawlowski in February, Vanore said. Both were killed in the line of duty. An alb is a white vestment, floor length with long sleeves.
In a statement, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia called the deception a "deeply disturbing matter."
At the funerals, Schlear "presented himself as associated with a religious community, but not as a priest," the archdiocese said.
Schlear "asked if he could be an altar server or assist in distributing Holy Communion. His request was denied. His participation was limited to walking in procession in the place designated for lay persons," the archdiocese said, citing the Rev. Dennis Gill, director of the Office of Worship.
The archdiocese told police that Schlear was never a priest. Schlear was for a short time a student at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 2002-2003, the archdiocese said.
"Our prayers and concern go out for Officer Hayes and his family at this time," the archdiocese said. "It is tragic to think that someone would present himself as a member of the clergy, violating the sacred trust that a family places in a priest at a time of crisis."
Hayes, 28, remains hospitalized. He suffered a severe head injury June 28 in Bridesburg when a car he and another officer had stopped on suspicion of drag racing was struck by an SUV driven by a Bucks County man who was allegedly drunk.
A spokesman for the hospital was not available for comment.
Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or email@example.com.