Allentown Priest Sentenced for Abuse, SNAP Calls for his former Bishop to Resign
A Pennsylvania priest who molested a young girl after being removed from a previous assignment for allegations of abuse was sentenced to prison yesterday. We are grateful that this abuser is finally away from children and hope that this news will encourage other victims and witnesses to come forward to police.
We are especially grateful to the judge in this case who did not mince words or split hairs when sentencing Fr. Kevin Lonergan to prison. She asked the simple question "We are still transferring priests that molest children?" and pointed out that the victim in this case would never have been hurt if the Catholic Church’s supposed “zero-tolerance” policy had been followed in the first place.
In 2016, a fifteen year old girl reported "hands on" molestation by Fr. Lonergan. Yet despite this allegation, then-Bishop of Allentown, John O. Barres, decided to put the priest back into ministry simply because that victim and her family did not want to press charges. We are appalled, but not surprised, that this occurred in 2016, 14 years after the "zero tolerance" pledge made in the Dallas charter.
It is horrifying that a second young girl was victimized by a cleric who had already been reported to Church authorities. And while it was ultimately Fr. Lonergan who abused the girl, it was the recklessness and hair-splitting of Bishop John O. Barres that needlessly put this latest victim and other children in harm's way.
Only one in ten victims of clerical sexual abuse report the assault contemporaneously with the crime. It is because of the bravery of this young victim and her family that Fr. Lonergan has been found guilty and will be registered as a sex offender. While Bishop Barres and other church officials who know of Fr. Lonergan’s history did nothing to prevent this abuse, this young girl's heroism in reporting and going through through the criminal process has undoubtedly saved many other children.
We call on Bishop Barres to resign. He put the Church's reputation and treasury ahead of its most precious asset, its young people. If the bishop will not do this voluntarily, then Pope Francis should intervene to strip him of his current post as Bishop of Rockville Centre, NY. There is no place for molestation enabling prelates in any Church setting and all those who do so should be removed from their positions immediately.
CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member (firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator (email@example.com,, 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)