February 24, 2020
By Laurie Mason Schroeder and Daniel Patrick Sheehan
After the father of a 17-year-old Allentown Central Catholic High School student who was groped by an Allentown Diocese priest lamented to Lehigh County Judge Maria L. Dantos that he was unable to do more to protect his daughter, the judge posed a question:
“Would it surprise you to learn that he was transferred here in 2016 after a similar incident?” she asked the father.
It was a stunning moment in an emotional hearing that ended with the Rev. Kevin Lonergan, 31, being sentenced to one to two years in state prison, the maximum allowed by law.
Lonergan, of Pottsville, will also be a registered sex offender under Megan’s Law for 15 years.
While the prior allegation did not lead to Lonergan’s arrest and was previously revealed in a 2018 news release and letter to parishioners, the judge still had strong words for the Catholic Church, noting that the practice of moving troublesome priests from one church to another has been condemned since the early 1980s.
“We are still transferring priests that molest children?” she asked, her voice raised. “If he had been sanctioned and fired, this victim would not be a victim.”
The diocese said in a statement that it wasn’t accurate to say it transferred a priest who committed an offense.
“Father Lonergan received a new assignment in 2016 only after Northampton County Children and Youth determined that the accusation was unfounded,” the diocese statement said.
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