Allentown Diocese removes priest over sex abuse allegation
By Nicole Radzievich
October 13, 2019
|The Rev. Robert J. Potts, seen in this 1999 photo, has been removed from ministry pending investigation of an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to the Allentown Catholic Diocese.|
The Rev. Robert J. Potts, pastor of St. Ursula Church in Fountain Hill, has been removed from ministry pending the investigation of an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Allentown Diocese said Sunday.
The allegation was made recently to the administrators of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, and they notified the diocese the week of Sept. 24. Bishop Alfred Schlert immediately removed Potts from the ministry and notified law enforcement, a news release said.
The release said Potts’ removal is a precautionary measure until the investigation is completed and not a determination of guilt.
Parishioners of St. Ursula were informed of the allegation at all Masses this weekend. The diocese’s announcement was done in consultation with the district attorney’s office in Schuylkill County, where the alleged abuse occurred.
The abuse allegedly occurred when Potts, now 82, was pastor of the former St. George Parish in Shenandoah. The diocese had no knowledge of the allegation until the program administrators notified the diocese.
The compensation program was created in April in response to a grand jury report released last summer that detailed sexual abuse accusations against 301 priests statewide involving hundreds of children over several decades. The report named 37 priests from the Allentown Diocese. More have been accused since then, and Potts is one of more than 50 Allentown Diocese priests who have been accused of abuse.
A five-month window to file claims with the fund closed at the end of September.
The diocese, with 150 active and retired priests, serves about 260,000 Catholics in 89 parishes across Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties.
The diocese released this timeline of where Potts, who was ordained in March 1964, was assigned during his career:
1964-65: Immaculate Conception, Jim Thorpe
1965-66: St. Joseph, Easton
1966-67: St. Vincent de Paul, Minersville
1967-69: St. Ann, Lansford
1969-70: Notre Dame, Bethlehem
1970-78: St. Vincent de Paul, Minersville
1978-79: St. Bernard, Easton
1979-85: Sacred Heart, New Philadelphia
1985-2004: St. George, Shenandoah
1986-2004: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Shenandoah
2001-04: St. Stephen, Shenandoah
2004-06: St. Mary, Ringtown and St. Joseph, Sheppton
2006-present: St. Ursula, Fountain Hill
Anyone who knows of incidents of abuse, in the Catholic Church or elsewhere, should report it to the state ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 or to local law enforcement. To speak directly to the Diocese of Allentown’s Victim Assistance Coordinator, call 1-800-791-9209.