Wisconsin priest barred from New York job after admitting past sexual abuse

By Katie Crowther
January 05, 2015

[with video]

MILWAUKEE -- A Catholic priest from Milwaukee has been removed from teaching and coaching duties at a school in New York City. He's being investigated for sexual abuse of minors.

Father Robert Harrison has been barred from public ministry. He's currently at professional facility where he cannot have any contact with minors.  
Harrison, 77, was one of Milwaukee's first African-American priests. He was also the first black priest ordained by the Capuchins for service in the Milwaukee area.
According to Colleen Crane, a spokesperson for the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, Harrison admitted to the abuse during an investigation into his finances. Harrison allegedly told his superiors that the abuse occurred in various private residences during his early career in Milwaukee, during the 1970's and 1980's. 
Between the 1960's and 1970's Harrison was stationed in Milwaukee at St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict the Moor, the St. Francis Friary, and the Carmelite Home for Boys. He may have also taught at St. Francis School and Messmer High School. 
The Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph released a statement that reads in part: "We are committed to helping those who have been harmed by Fr. Harrison. We will be reaching out to all of the ministries where Fr. Harrison served."
So far, no victims have come forward. Peter Isely, who runs Wisconsin's SNAP - the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests - hopes that will change.
"Victims need to come forward," he says. "The fact that none have shows you how difficult it is, and how that stigma still remains. It only protects the predator. If anyone's been hurt by this priest, they need to go to law enforcement so he can be prosecuted. They need to, because in a addition to being the victim, they are also the principal witness. The more victims that come forward, the harder it is for these priests to get away with it and continue the behavior. These crimes live and thrive in secrecy."
The district attorneys in the Bronx and New York City are reviewing the case. The Milwaukee County District Attorney says he is in the process of gathering more information to determine the next appropriate steps.



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