Survivor Details Priest Abuse, Accused Priest Shares His Side (part One)
By Jack Eble
August 6, 2018
One Pennsylvania native, who says he testified for the grand jury report on child sex abuse within the six Roman Catholic Diocese in the commonwealth, worries its contents won't be available for the public to read.
He wants to make sure he can share his story.
"This is not an easy story to tell," the source said, choosing to remain anonymous.
He said the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg was a central part of his childhood.
He described himself as "very involved," and attended church regularly, had his baptism and confirmation there.
He eventually attended St. Patrick School in Carlisle through eighth grade during the 1980s
He achieved something his classmates looked forward to doing: become an alter boy.
"You got to leave and do any sort of funerals that were there. You got a free break from school. Being an alter boy was kind of a good thing."
At an alter boy retreat in a place outside of Carlisle, he said he met a priest within the Diocese of Harrisburg: Father Herbert Shank.
"From there, it became a very tumultuous relationship. It became very...unhealthy."
He said Shank took him to a hot springs with pools big enough for two or three people.
"It was kind of an awkward situation where we were completely naked in this pool. He was trying to grab me and grope me and pull me and just kind of what is going on? I thought that this was something new...Here I am, a very young 12-year old boy with this older man who was not a family member in this weird situation. It was my first introduction to massages."
He said he went along with it because he was a pre-teen under the guidance of a clergy member.
"I remember it was very awkward and I was very kind of put-off by why is he grabbing me? What's going on? Why is he trying to fondle me?"
From there, he said a very unhealthy relationship blossomed with Father Herbert Shank.
He said he spent a lot of time in the rectory of St. Patrick Church in Carlisle with Shank.
"There was alcohol pretty much involved every single time. There were situation where it became sort of a fetish where it was any opportunity to get me out of my clothes and to be in a situation where he could touch me or grope me or...A lot of massages, foot massages. It turned into full body massages at the rectory in St. Patrick's there in Carlisle where we would be watching movies, we would be listening to...he had a very extensive collection of records, opera records. We would find ourselves in situation where a foot massage turned into "Hey, come into the bedroom. Let's get your clothes off and my clothes off" which, looking back, was a very awkward and weird situation."
He said the majority of his time spent in the bedroom with Shank involved both of them in their underwear with baby oil used during massages.
"It became a lot of groping, it became a lot of "Oh, I spilled the bottle of baby oil on you and let me rub it on you as I move my hand up your inner thigh and touch your genitals." That was very uncomfortable for me. I think I knew at the time this was kind of weird but when you are being in a situation where a member of the clergy was doing this, you'd think that's okay. "
He said while his parents were going through difficult times, Shank was his parent's councilor.
He believes that's when Shank made him what he calls an "object of abuse."
"It was like leading the fox into the hen house where I was very young, 12 year old, sensitive boy, saw parents in distress and turmoil and he took the opportunity to identify me and prey on me."
Our source said the abuse at the hands of shank would continue for a year and a half.
He said the majority of their time was at the St. Patrick rectory
He describes his relationship with Shank as quid pro quo, getting special treatment as part of the abuse.
"It usually involved a lot of coercing. As a 12-year old boy drinking Sauterne, French Sauterne in the rectory and eating cheese and watching scary movies so we could cuddle on the couch was kind of different, right? It was kind of cool, it was kind of fun. It was like oh my gosh, I'm special. That's definitely a part of the predator mentality and make them feel special. Make them feel vulnerable."
He recalls a time at the rectory at St. Patrick when he was a little bit older than when the alleged abuse started.
He claims Shank wanted to take pictures of him in what he called "Superman" briefs or speedo-like underwear.
He said Shank made him change into the underwear, taking pictures of him with a Polaroid camera as he did various poses.
"He wouldn't allow me to change in the bathroom, he wanted me to change right in front of him. Not surprisingly enough, during my process of changing, the camera would accidentally go off. So he was taking pictures of me naked in front of a mirror in the bedroom of the place he lived in the rectory."
According to our source, his presence in the rectory did not go unnoticed.
"The expressions from the housekeepers as I'm walking half-clothed through the rectory at St. Patrick's and her expression, her face makes a lot more sense to me now than it did then. Kind of like what are you doing here? Why are you up here? Why are you in the living quarters for these men?"
He said he received similar expressions from a pastor at St. Patrick Church at the time.
"Some of his expressions at times as I'm getting foot massages and I'm walking around in with shorts on and a t-shirt and in the living quarters. I think some of his expression resonate now that he knew or suspected that this was not normal. This is something that should not be happening but I didn't know any better, right? I'm a 12 year old kid whose got a couple glasses of wine in me."
Our source says St. Patrick Church on Marsh Road in Carlisle was also a frequent spot due to a shower in the back of the church.
He alleges he and Shank went on runs along back roads around the church.
"He was always suggesting that we shower there. There were times when we showered together that I would be taking a shower and he would just get in the shower. Again, as a 12, 13 year old boy, it was very uncomfortable...I would try and squirm and get away and just kind of squirm, get out of the situation as fast as I could....But...this was cool so I tolerated it."
Our source said the abuse wasn't limited to St. Patrick Churches.
He said there were trips to other neighboring states including New York and Delaware at different hotels and locations.
He said he continued to tolerate the relationship with Shank, even as he says Shank was abruptly moved from St. Patrick in Carlisle.
According to the website of St. Rita's Catholic Church in Blue Ridge Summit, Shank served as an administrator for eight weeks in 1984.
Assignment records at the Diocese of Harrisburg say Shank eventually ended up at St. Rose of Lima in York in 1985.
Our source said his family spent an Easter Sunday there one year at a time when he says he started feeling confused and conflicted about the relationship.
He said his parents were with him but had no knowledge of the alleged abuse.
"They had no idea what was happening behind the scenes. They had no idea. This was a person of the church. This is someone you're supposed to be able to trust. This is someone who is above all of this. This is someone who should not be concerned about them spending time with your daughter or your son. They were wrong."
That Easter at St. Rose of Lima, he claims he found a letter written by Shank to another boy while walking through the parish.
"I read the first couple paragraphs of, it was a very lengthy letter and it stated that he understood why **** was not a homosexual. He understood why **** was not someone who he could have a relationship with. I started reading this and I had flashbacks for what happened with me. I returned the letter to the envelope and put it away and we continued the day and then left."
Our source says it wasn't until he started getting towards high school age when he realized it was not a healthy relationship.
"This is something I need to end. That I need no more correspondence with Herbert Shank, at all."
On Tuesday July 31, we spoke with Herbert Shank's home.
When asked if he had any response to a statement by the Diocese of Harrisburg acknowledging his "actions related to child sex abuse," he replied:
"I'm no longer there. I'm deeply sorry for everything that happened. That, I think, is all I should say until I've talked to my lawyer and anyone else that was involved. Honestly, that's all that they say. But in my situation, I didn't fight it. I acknowledge that there were some situations and resigned and went to the Institute of Living in Connecticut and was in there for two years and four months. I couldn't stay there in therapy but I wish I had. I think I would've been able to forgive myself better, maybe approach and say something to the people. But right now, that's all I would say. The diocese...The thing that the grand jury is putting out makes it sound terrible across the board and I'm sure certainly there must've been those situations, they wouldn't bring them up. In my own, that was not. This was in 1994...eight years before that business happened with Cardinal Law's resignation in Boston. We're talking a quarter of a century ago. It was handled totally properly. Things were turned over. I was told I had to get my own lawyer, the diocese had no connection with me at that level, at least on that level. And they asked if I'd go to therapy and I accepted. That's all I can say right now."
When asked if he knew how many individuals he had this type of relationship with, he replied:
"No, not off the top of my head. It certainly wasn't more than very few but like I said I don't want to go into that right now. I don't know! I really don't. I put the best faith on it possible and didn't think of it being sexually molestation. Like you mentioned, it was massaging...Okay, fine that's acceptable...But I could say right now, perhaps later when all this comes out, there might be a time when...I don't know.
When asked if there's anything he would like to say to the survivors coming forward, he replied:
"Like I say now I wish I had, even though I spent two years and four months in therapy, the last part of therapy was little bit different than usual probably being I wish I had...When I came back here, I wish I had stayed in therapy so that I could come to the point where I might be able to face it. I am, obviously. These were people that were important to me in my own maybe messed up way. But they were not people that, I consider, were taken advantage of."
FOX 43 aired part of this story on the night of Wednesday, August 1 after the Diocese of Harrisburg released its list of more than 70 clergy members accused of sexual abuse dating back to the 1940s.
In response to some of Shank's comments, the Diocese issued the following statement:
“As we disclosed in our list earlier this week, Herbert Shank, who was removed from ministry in 1994, was the subject of multiple accusations of child sexual abuse. We watched his recent interview with shock and great sadness as he attempted to rationalize clearly inappropriate behavior with children. We have a zero-tolerance policy as it relates to child sexual abuse. Anyone who is accused of this type of behavior is immediately referred to law enforcement and removed from active duties, employment or volunteering.
“We want to apologize to this particular survivor for the abuse he has suffered. We apologize to all who have endured the pain and suffering of abuse, but also to the people of our Diocese and the public whose faith and trust in our Church has been tested.”
In response to the aforementioned statement and the release of the list of accused clergy members, the survivor in our story issued this statement: "Bishop Gainer’s comments last week and his reaction to Herbert Shank’s interview are an embarrassment to himself and the Diocese. It is another failed attempt to show empathy for the people who were abused by predators under their authority and responsibility and the cover-up by the Diocese. These simple-minded actions are fueled by the the PA Grand Jury Report, which Bishop Gainer has read, and by hours behind closed doors with PR firms and lawyers. Changing some signs around the Diocese is an insult to the victims and all of the people these predators have abused. They have known about this abuse for decades and have done nothing. The ONLY action that Bishop Gainer can do that will begin to start the healing process is to publicly SUPPORT Rep. Mark Rozzi legislation to change the Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania so the victims of clergy and institutional child abuse can have their DUE PROCESS."
Part Two of our investigation will air Tuesday, August 7 at 10 p.m.