Support Group for Victims of Sexual Abuse Upset over Cardinal Hayes Handling of Pedophile Priest
By Denis Slattery
New York Daily News
January 6, 2015
A support group for victims of sexual abuse blasted a Bronx school and the Catholic church for waiting to inform the public about a pedophile priest who came forward weeks ago.
Officials from Cardinal Hayes High School informed parents Monday that Father Robert Harrison, a Franciscan priest who had been at the school since 1989, admitted to sexually abusing minors in the 1970s and 1980s and was fired on Dec. 22.
“We suspect obviously selfish reasons for the two irresponsible weeks of secrecy,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests. “We suspect Catholic officials didn’t want to risk hurting holiday donations.”
Harrison taught religion and coached JV basketball during his 26 years at the Grand Concourse school for boys.
“(T)hus far, it does not appear that any of the abuse involved students from Cardinal Hayes,” the school’s president, Father Joseph Tierney, said in a letter to parents on Monday.
Harrison was being investigated for mishandling money, according to school officials. He admitted to borrowing money from different places and people, then using it to pay off a man he sexually abused decades ago.
Church officials defended the decision to wait until students returned from winter vacation.
"The school wanted to ensure that the students would learn about it through school officials," Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph spokeswoman Colleen Crane said. "They wanted to handle it with sensitivity. For the sake of the students."
Harrison has not been charged with any crimes, but Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson’s office encouraged potential victims to reach out.
Tierney did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
“We are available to anyone who has information or a complaint, despite the possibility the statute of limitations may have run — our Crime Victims Assistance Unit is available to help,” Johnson spokeswoman Terry Raskyn said.
Hayes has faced criticism for a history of abuse.
In 2009, James West, the school’s dean of discipline, pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and was given a conditional discharge after being charged with forcible touching and sexual abuse.
Hayes’ former principal, Christopher Keogan, was forced out in February 2008 for having inappropriate images on his computer, and a former Spanish teacher pleaded guilty to having sex with a 16-year-old student in 2003.
Harrison’s order, the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, issued a statement promising to seek out any victims.
“We are deeply saddened and sorry for what has occurred,” a spokeswoman for the order said. “The province is committed to helping those who have been harmed by Fr. Harrison.”