Cleric Charged with Indecent Assault

By Gloria Campisi
Philadelphia Daily News
December 19, 2002

A Catholic priest who once taught at St. John Neumann High School in South Philadelphia has been accused of making advances to a mentally disabled man and another in a whirlpool at a suburban YMCA.

The Rev. David T. Lawlor, 59, a Norbertine father from Daylesford Abbey, in Paoli, Chester County, was arraigned yesterday on charges of indecent assault.

Lawlor was temporarily suspended and relieved of ministerial duties, under a new church policy in the wake of a widespread sex scandal. Lawlor's lawyer, Samuel C. Stretton, denied the allegations, saying "we will vigorously challenge" them in court.

Stretton called Lawlor "a very gentle man who's dedicated his life to other people."

Lawlor was released on $5,000 unsecured bail after a hearing yesterday before District Justice John F. Anthony. A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 21.

The two incidents allegedly occurred Nov. 24 at the Upper Main Line YMCA in Paoli.

According to Easttown Township police, an investigation began after one of the men, described as a mentally disabled adult male, told investigators Lawlor accosted him in the men's whirlpool. The allegation involved inappropriate touching.

The he went into the shower and was followed by Lawlor, who asked if he was OK. The man left and called police.

While investigating, police discovered "a second victim who was approached by Lawlor under similar circumstances the same day," they said..

The Rev. Ronald J. Rossi, who heads Daylesford Abbey, said although Lawlor had been temporarily relieved of ministerial duties, awaiting the outcome of the case, he had only occasionally filled in for other priests, due to medical problems. Lawlor oversaw the kitchen at the abbey.

Stretton said Lawlor, who has been a priest since 1971, has "denied any of the allegations."



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