Priest Removed from Ministry after Sex Allegations

By Libby A. Nelson
The Times-Tribune
March 8, 2011

A priest who has served in parishes across Northeast Pennsylvania was removed from the ministry in February after allegations surfaced that he sexually abused a young boy in Missouri in the 1980s.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jackson County, Mo., accused the Rev. Mark Honhart, who has worked most recently in parishes in Carbondale, Throop and Forest City, of molesting an 8- or 9-year-old boy in Kansas City, Mo., where he served for more than 20 years.

When the alleged victim, now 37, was a pupil at a diocese school in Kansas City, he got in trouble repeatedly for chewing gum in class and was fined $15, according to the suit. His parents arranged a deal for him to work off the fine. While he was cleaning windows and bathrooms after school, Father Honhart allegedly forced him to perform oral sex and performed oral sex on him, according to the suit.

The abuse occurred more than once, said the alleged victim, who is not named in the lawsuit. A few years later, he said, he was also abused by another priest in the same parish, then-Rev. Hugh Monahan. Mr. Monahan, who has been accused of molesting other boys in the 1970s and 1980s, left the priesthood in 1989, according to The Associated Press.

Both men are named as defendants, as well as the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The diocese knew or should have known of previous abuse allegations regarding both priests, the lawsuit argues.

The victim "engaged involuntary psychological coping measures," the suit said, and did not recall his abuse until he underwent counseling for marital issues in 2009.

"These priests belong behind bars," said Abott Durocher, a Kansas City leader of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in a statement. "Until that happens, however, their church supervisors should make sure they are away from kids in a remote, secure, professionally-run treatment center."

The Diocese of Scranton learned of the allegations Feb. 2 and immediately removed Father Honhart from the ministry, diocese spokesman Bill Genello said in a statement Tuesday evening. It also notified the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese as well as public authorities.

Father Honhart, who was ordained in Kansas City in 1980, requested a transfer to the Scranton diocese in 2003 to be closer to his mother and sister, who lived in Warren, Mr. Genello said in the statement. No complaints about Father Honhart were brought to the diocese's attention at the time.

Beginning in July 2004, Father Honhart worked in parishes across the region, including St. Rose of Lima, Carbondale, where he was an assistant pastor.

He was an administrator at St. Anthony, St. Bridget and St. John the Baptist, Throop; Ascension Parish, Forest City; St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Rock Lake; and Our Lady Help of Christians, Dorrance.

Efforts to locate Father Honhart on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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