Two Say Priest 'Routinely' Abused Them
Charges against Now-Deceased Cleric Part of Class-Action Suit against Archdiocese
By Michael Hinkelman
Philadelphia Daily News
June 17, 2006
A much-beloved but now-deceased Catholic priest who mentored boys from a tough neighborhood in North Philadelphia - including former basketball phenom Hank Gathers - has been accused of "routinely" abusing two brothers in 1977 and 1978.
The accusations were leveled in a federal class-action lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia late Thursday, alleging that the church violated federal racketeering and conspiracy laws when it covered up abuses by priests.
It seeks unspecified damages and costs for attorneys' fees.
The newly accused priest, the Rev. David I. Hagan - known affectionately as "Father Dave" - died of kidney cancer on May 1, 2005, at age 66.
The lawsuit alleges that Hagan abused Thomas and Willie Magnum at both his house in North Philadelphia and at the Jersey shore, but it offers no details or any facts to substantiate the charges.
"The Archdiocese has those files [on Hagan] but won't let us see them," said attorney Stewart J. Eisenberg, who represents the 14 plaintiffs who are suing the Archdiocese and its current and former top leaders.
"So the only independent verification right now that [the allegations against Hagan] are true is [the Magnums'] word," Eisenberg said.
C. Clark Hodgson Jr., an attorney for the Archdiocese, said the Archdiocese would be responding to the lawsuit in court and declined further comment.
The accusations by the Magnum brothers mark the first time any abuse accusations have been made publicly against Hagan.
Michael Malloy, an attorney for the Hagan family, said yesterday the family was "absolutely outraged" by the accusations.
Malloy said that when the family first heard more than a year ago that the Magnums might be contemplating a lawsuit, he undertook an investigation and found the abuse claims didn't add up.
Those who knew Hagan said they were surprised and shocked by the accusations.
Darrell Gates, 39, a SEPTA bus driver from East Oak Lane who played with Gathers on their 1985 Public League championship team at Murrell Dobbins Tech, said he used to bunk at Hagan's house from time to time when he was a boy.
"He never, ever touched me, never, ever," Gates said.
Others who knew Hagan also were suspicious of the Magnums' accusations.
"These are only accusations, and I would be very shocked if they were true," said Sister Mary Scullion, who runs Project HOME. "Not everybody who is accused is automatically guilty, but it doesn't mean he's not guilty either."
Scullion, who lives about three blocks from where Hagan lived, called the accusations a "terrible tarnish" to Hagan's reputation but nevertheless said the charges should be investigated and the truth should come out.
Hagan wasn't your typical Roman Catholic priest. He was an order priest (a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales) and didn't live in a parish house.
He was twice portrayed in films, once by veteran screen actor George Kennedy in the 1992 made-for-TV flick, "Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story."
Gathers was a student and basketball star at Loyola Marymount University in Southern California when he collapsed on the court and died of an irregular heartbeat in 1990. He was just 23.
Hagan was Gathers' grade-school teacher and also coached him at the now-shuttered St. Elizabeth's school.
Hagan, who was white and often didn't wear his clerical collar, lived in a three-story rowhouse at 22nd and Berks streets in North Philadelphia.
He toughed out the mean streets and the drug gangs to provide a shelter and way station for troubled youth in the neighborhood for almost 35 years.
"He showed me how to be a decent young man," Gates said. "He raised me; we didn't have nothing. If it weren't for Father Dave, I would probably be in jail."
Gates said if he needed shoes or a haircut, a little something to eat, he went to see Hagan.
The kitchen of Hagan's home featured a big bulletin board Hagan dubbed the "wall of fame" during a 1990 interview with the Inquirer shortly after Gathers' death.
The bulletin board was covered with pictures of kids who had been befriended by the priest, with graduation pictures, basketball pictures and funeral programs.
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