‘A devil in sheep’s clothing’: Mom shares son’s story of alleged abuse by Fresno Diocese priest

KSEE - NBC 24 [Fresno CA]

May 29, 2024

By Ben Morris

The Catholic Diocese of Fresno announced on Tuesday that it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to address 154 claims of sexual assault.

On Wednesday, we sat down with Karen Lowart, who told us her son, Jason, was molested by one of the Diocese’s priests.

She says the assault came on what was supposed to be a happy day for his grandparents, an anniversary celebration with the whole family in Fresno.

“It was their 50th wedding anniversary. And we would usually start them off with a mass. It was at their house. Don Flickinger was there. He was presiding over the mass,” said Lowart.

Lowart says that man, Priest Don Flickinger, was under the umbrella of the Fresno Diocese.

As the family celebrated the joyous occasion, she says they never thought Flickinger would be the one to do the unthinkable.

“Our son Jason was about 4 1/2, almost 5, and was lured into my folks’ powder room and in their downstairs bathroom and was molested that day of their anniversary.”

Lowart claims it all happened roughly 24 years ago.

She says Flickinger was very close with the family and was always around, from frequent visits to the family’s vacation home on the coast to the invites to major milestones and celebrations.

But Lowart says he ultimately ended up “a devil in sheep’s clothing.”

“It was not out of the ordinary whatsoever to have priests at the house. But he was one that was… He groomed my mom and dad to make them believe that he really cared about them,” she said. “He really was just out to molest children.”

Lowart and her family did not find out about the alleged incident until over a decade later after they started to see a change in Jason’s early 20s.

She says the discovery was made when they took him to a therapist, after depression, anger, and anxiety began to overtake the loving and caring son.

“It all came out that day. And he came home, and he said, ‘Mom, I was raped. I was molested,’” said Lowart.

From that point on, Jason’s mother says even with additional help it only got worse for her son. She says Jason turned to alcohol and drugs and went in and out of rehab. She believes he was doing anything he could to try and numb the pain.

“The nightmares just got to be too much, and he would call us in the middle of the night sobbing that he couldn’t do it anymore.”

The spiral only continued.

Her husband checked Jason into rehab for what ended up being his last time. Lowart says after only 24 hours he left the treatment facility, and headed back to his apartment, when on Nov. 5, 2023, their son stopped answering their calls.

They called the police and asked for a welfare check when a heartbreaking discovery was made.

“They had to break the door down and they found him deceased. He had a fentanyl overdose. They called it an accidental fentanyl overdose,” she said.

Jason Lowart was just 27 years old.

Now to make sure her son didn’t die in vain, Lowart has joined SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

She says the goal of it all is to share stories like her son’s and to hold those like Flickinger and the Catholic Church responsible.

Lowart also revealed Flickinger, now 89-year-old, has over 100 accusations of molestation.

I tried to reach out for comment but was unable to get a hold of him. 

I also asked the Fresno Diocese for comment on Flickinger and whether he was still with the church.

They couldn’t comment on the allegations or his history but could say he currently doesn’t hold faculties at the Diocese of Fresno.