Bronx School Ousts Priest After Admissions of Abuse

By Sharon Otterman
New York Times
January 05, 2015

An assistant principal at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx has been dismissed after admitting just before the Christmas break that he sexually abused 10 minors in the 1970s and 1980s, authorities from his religious order said on Monday.

The Rev. Robert Harrison, a Capuchin priest, taught religion and black history and was one of two assistant principals at the Roman Catholic school near Yankee Stadium, which counts luminaries like Regis Philbin and Martin Scorsese among its alumni and is known for its success in advancing students to college.

Father Harrison began working at the school in 1989 and was a considerable presence there, coaching basketball and moderating the speech club and Black Heritage Club. Last May, to honor the 50th anniversary of his and a former faculty member’s ordination, the school closed for the day.

The Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, to which Father Harrison belongs, discovered the abuse on Dec. 22 after learning that Father Harrison was borrowing money from staff members at the high school, it said on Monday. When asked why, Father Harrison said he was paying an abuse victim, and then went on to acknowledge he had sexually abused 10 minors in Manhattan, the Bronx and in Milwaukee in the 1970s and 1980s, the province said.  

In a letter home to parents on Monday, the president of Cardinal Hayes High School said as of now, it appeared that none of the abuse had involved students at the high school.

The province said it had never received any abuse claims against Father Harrison, and he told his superiors that to his knowledge, none of his victims had ever reported the abuse. The province has since referred the matter to prosecutors, who are still reviewing the information.

“We are deeply saddened and sorry for what has occurred,” it said in a statement, adding that it is “committed to helping those who have been harmed by Father Harrison.” Father Harrison, who joined the Capuchin order in 1955, has a master’s degree in social work and a law degree. Father Harrison has been permanently relieved of all ministerial duties and placed in a facility where he has no contact with children, a provincial official said.

The school held assemblies on Monday to inform students. Some said outside the school that they had trouble believing the revelations.

James Krek, 17, said Father Harrison would allow students to complete work for other teachers during his class. 

“He was a cool guy,” he said.


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