Fountain Hill Pastor Returns to Ministry after Sex Abuse Allegation
By Kurt Bresswein
August 27, 2020
A Roman Catholic priest removed from the ministry last fall has been restored after being cleared of alleged sexual abuse, the Diocese of Allentown said in a news release Thursday.
Father Robert J. Potts, ordained in 1964, is assigned as pastor of St. Ursula Church in Fountain Hill and will celebrate Masses beginning this weekend.
Allentown Bishop Alfred Schlert removed Potts from the ministry and ordered law enforcement be notified last October, on the day the allegation against Potts was received. It came into the Washington, D.C.-based administrators of the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program set up for victims of sexual abuse, and the administrators in turn notified the diocese.
The local diocese had no knowledge of the allegation before being notified, according to the news release.
The person who filed the complaint alleged Potts had sexually abused him in the 1980s and early 1990s when Potts, now 83, was pastor of the former St. George Parish in Shenandoah, Schuylkill County.
The Schuylkill County District Attorney’s Office declined to investigate the case, because the statute of limitations on filing criminal charges had passed.
The diocese said it “then hired independent investigators who pursued all possible leads in the case and determined that Father Potts did not commit the acts that were alleged. The investigative firm, based outside the Diocese, employs retired F.B.I. agents who are trained investigators with decades of experience with the agency.
“The Independent Review Board, a group of lay experts in abuse issues formed to review such cases, then considered all of the facts in the case and recommended unanimously that Father Potts be reinstated. Bishop Schlert accepted the recommendation.”
A Pennsylvania grand jury two years ago detailed allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of 301 priests across six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, beginning in the mid-1950s.
The diocese advises anyone who knows of incidents of abuse to report it to the State ChildLine at 800-932-0313 or to local law enforcement. The Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator is available to provide assistance to anyone who, as a minor, was abused by a priest, deacon, employee or volunteer of the diocese, or of its parishes. Her direct line is 800-791-9209.