Berks County man sues Allentown Diocese, citing sex abuse at school

By Karen Shuey
Reading Eagle
August 28, 2018

The Wyomissing resident alleges in the lawsuit that he was assaulted in 1989 by the Rev. Richard J. Ford, who died in 2005.
Reading, PA —

A Berks County man is suing the Diocese of Allentown for sexual abuse he says he suffered decades ago as a student at Holy Guardian Angels Regional School in Muhlenberg Township.

Albert F. Shore of Wyomissing alleges in the lawsuit that he was assaulted in 1989 by the Rev. Richard J. Ford, who has since died.

He is suing the diocese, asserting it allowed known pedophiles to remain in their positions and failed to report sexual assault by priests to law enforcement.

“I've been going through therapy for this for over two decades. I felt like it's time,” Shore said Monday by phone in explaining why he waited nearly 30 years to file suit. “I feel strong enough to really delve into the honest, brutal facts of this case, and I feel that the people I know have been affected, they too will have the strength to move forward.”

Allentown Diocese spokesman Matt Kerr said Monday that the diocese, which covers Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties, had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Kerr said the diocese has included Ford, who died in 2005, on its public list of priests accused of abuse.

“After his death, the Diocese became aware of an allegation against Ford, and reported it to law enforcement,” Kerr said in a statement.

A landmark grand jury report released this month revealed that more than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — were molested by hundreds of priests in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses, including Allentown's, while senior church officials took steps to cover up the abuse.

Shore said that he testified before the grand jury for about two hours but Ford was not named in the report.

“My reaction (to the report) was, where's Father Ford?” Shore said.

His lawsuit, filed Monday in Berks County Court, alleges:

In early spring 1989, Ford took a group of four boys that included Shore to a movie after school.

During the outing, Ford asked the boys which one struggled the most in school. The three other boys pointed at Shore, who was 12 at the time, as having the most difficulty. And, Shore says, that was when Ford began grooming him as a victim.

Following the outing, Shore began giving regular confessions to Ford.

On one occasion, Shore said that Ford escorted him to a locked door on the top floor of the rectory. The chamber contained two rooms: one with a large desk, the second with a bed and nightstand covered with children's books.

Shore alleges that Ford directed him to sit down on the bed and began speaking about his faith and responsibilities to God. Ford then forcefully grabbed him through his pants and began fondling him.

In shock and unable to understand what was happening, Shore said his repeated attempts to slide away were met with a stern warning about his religious duty.

Eventually, Shore ran from the room and hid beneath the desk in the other room.

During the entire episode, Shore said that Ford was fondling himself.

Ford angrily told Shore that if he told anyone about the incident he would go “straight to hell.” He went on to tell him that he was merely conducting a “laying of hands” sacrament on him in an effort to help him. He said it was a common practice for priests to do to young boys to help cleanse their souls of impure thoughts, but that Shore was ungrateful and not faithful enough to be cleansed.

‘They need to take action'

Shore said that after the incident he had believed he had done something wrong and feared that the encounter had made him gay, a concern that would remain an issue for the next two decades of his life.

He began to harm himself physically. His academic performance suffered significantly, resulting in his having to repeat sixth grade. He also tried repeatedly to get Ford to absolve him and confirm God had forgiven him.

By the fall of 1990, Ford was transferred to another parish and Shore never saw him again.

In the weeks following Ford's departure, Shore began abusing alcohol and then turned to drugs.

Shore said that he continued to struggle academically, personally and professionally as he grew older. His struggles with alcohol continued until he eventually became sober in 2015.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as bipolar and borderline personality disorders. The mental health issues peaked in 2000 when he became unable to perform his duties for the Navy and was forced to undergo treatment.

The Navy, following legal protocol, contacted the Allentown Diocese in 2000 on two separate occasions to inform them of the abuse suffered by Shore but the diocese did not respond.

Following his honorable discharge from the Navy, Shore decided in 2005 that after years of intensive therapy he would report the abuse to the diocese.

The diocese informed Shore that Ford had died and offered to pay for his therapy as it pertained to the assault.

Shore initially accepted the offer. But, ultimately concerned about the motives of the diocese, later refused the offer.

“I'm still Catholic,” Shore said Monday. “I go to church, go to confession every Sunday and Saturday ever since I can remember. If I had to ask for something in order to heal, I honestly think there needs to be something in place, a group setting, or something.

“They need to take action. No more of these letters during the Mass saying the Diocese of Allentown is sorry for what happened.

“If someone says sorry over and over again for the same thing, and they don't take action, what do you call that?”



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