Priest Accused of Rape, Defrocked - Then Got Government Job Helping Mentally Disabled People
By Candy Woodall
York Daily Record
February 22, 2019
Father David H. Luck allegedly raped one boy and molested another, according to findings in a Pennsylvania grand jury report.
He reportedly told people that he fantasized about sex with boys and that he was a pedophile.
The Diocese of Harrisburg removed him from ministry in 1990.
But for nearly 24 years after that, a York Daily Record investigation has revealed, York County hired him to work with some of the area's most vulnerable residents.
Reached at his home recently, Luck declined to discuss the past allegations or his work with the county. That work typically involves direct contact with many people who have mental disabilities.
County officials say they were unaware of his history until August when Luck's name appeared among 301 priests named in a Pennsylvania grand jury report. He was terminated about a month later.
How the church concealed allegations of sexual assault
|Father David H. Luck (Photo11: Diocese of Harrisburg)|
The diocese and Roman Catholic Church concealed the allegations against him in secret archives for decades.
The family of a 15-year-old boy who said he was raped by Luck went to police, according to the grand jury report. A document from 1996 said the diocese would cooperate if it was contacted by police about Luck, but Luck was never criminally charged and diocese officials never reported the allegations.
Hiding the allegations against him ensured Luck would never appear on a Megan’s Law list or have any trouble passing a background check for child sexual abuse, although he was accused of abusing two boys.
Even so, it took the county 21 years to run any kind of background check on Luck, who is now 58 years old. The county didn't search state and federal records until 2015, when state child safety laws changed and required it.
Luck was hired by York County on Jan. 18, 1994, as a caseworker in the Mental Health/Intellectual and Development Disabilities section of the Human Services department.
He was terminated on Sept. 21, 2018, about a month after the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released. The county has not specified the reason for his termination.
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“His employment separation was involuntary,” said county spokesman Mark Walters. “There is currently an outstanding grievance case between David Luck and the county, so regarding his involuntary separation, we won’t comment further.”
It remains unclear what the county knew in the 1990s when it hired Luck and how much it tried to learn about his past.
The grand jury report revealed that “a mental health agency” in 1996 asked the Diocese of Harrisburg for a reference. In a memo dated July 15, 1996, the Rev. Paul Helwig told Bishop Nicholas Dattilo the diocese “received a standard form, but instead of responding to the questions on the form, I wrote a letter and stated that, 'Because of conduct unbefitting a minister of the Church, David was relieved of his duties and does not have authorization to present himself or work as a priest.'"
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There are no records that indicate the mental health agency followed up to ask what kind of conduct was unbefitting of a minister of the church or why he was relieved of his duties during a time when the church rarely removed priests, even for abuse.
What that mental health agency didn’t know was that Luck was accused of raping a 15-year-old boy and fondling an 11-year-old boy in the late 1980s.
What the Harrisburg diocese knew about Father Luck
Luck was a deacon at St. Paul the Apostle in Annville during the summer of 1986 and spring of 1987. He was later a priest at St. Joseph in Mechanicsburg from June 1987 to January 1989, according to diocese records and the grand jury report.
Days before Christmas in December 1988, a family told their local priest that Luck molested their sons while he was still a deacon at St. Paul the Apostle. That local priest told Bishop William Keeler, who in February 1989 sent Luck to St. Luke’s Institute to be evaluated at the Maryland treatment center for priests and religious clergy.
While at the institute, Luck sent a letter to seventh graders at his local school and told them he couldn’t wait to see them again, according to the grand jury report.
St. Luke’s diagnosed Luck with “Paraphilia, a sexual deviation,” the grand jury report said. People diagnosed with paraphilia are, by definition, sexual deviates with intense attractions to fetishes and extreme or dangerous activities.
“Luck admitted to fantasizing about sex with boys, fondling and touching them, and performing mutual fellatio with them,” the grand jury report said, citing diocese records.
St. Luke's recommendation was that Luck should not be in ministry around children or adolescents, and “Luck began writing letters to other dioceses around the country asking to be allowed to minister,” the grand jury report said.
Bishop Dattilo, who was installed in January 1990, suspended Luck in May 1990. Luck fought the suspension for 15 years until the Catholic church formally defrocked him in 2005.
In October 1990, a handwritten letter was sent to Dattilo, telling him that in September of that year, Luck said, “I am a pedophile” to the Rev. McGovern and another person, who was not named in the grand jury report.
Luck was told not to have any contact with the victims, but “shortly thereafter, Luck approached one of the victims at a parish festival,” the grand jury report said.
None of those details were made publicly available until August when the grand jury report was released.
How Jerry Sandusky prompted a background check
But even if Luck had a record, the county wouldn’t have known about it until 21 years after he was hired and the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal prompted changes in state law.
“The county conducted FBI, state police and child abuse clearance checks in 2015 after the law change from the Sandusky case. They indicated no record,” Walters said.
Luck’s neighbors on Carl Street in York said they were also unaware of his history. One neighbor said she searched the Megan’s Law website before moving to the neighborhood and didn’t see any child abusers on their street, which is a short walk to playgrounds and Kiwanis Lake.
People who live next door and across the street from Luck have children. They were unaware of his history.
And Luck isn’t answering questions about the accusations against him.
When a reporter knocked on his door and started to ask questions, he at first denied his identity. When the reporter told him he looked exactly like several photos of David Luck, he said, “Thank you.”
When the reporter asked him about being a priest, he said he did not want to talk about it.
When a reporter asked him about working for the county, he said he did not want to talk about it.
And he would not say where he’s working now.