Diocese Settles Sexual-Abuse Lawsuit
Man Said Reporting Priests LED to Firings

By Mary Warner
Patriot News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
August 25, 2005

An $18,000 settlement has ended a federal suit in Arizona that accused the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg and 23 other defendants of protecting sexual abusers.

The diocese was ready "to defend vigorously against this lawsuit," said the Rev. William King, judicial vicar, but "it would be more costly to pursue even a pretrial dismissal" than to join the settlement. The diocese's contribution was $4,500.

In the 2004 suit, Philip Hower, 46, of Tucson, claimed that he was blocked from the priesthood for reporting priests' sexual advances toward him and to others in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Six dioceses and 18 clergy were defendants -- including Cardinal William Keeler and Bishop Wilton Gregory, former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Most of the suit involved the Tucson diocese.

The Pennsylvania chapter of Hower's story revolved around Keeler, the former Harrisburg bishop who is now archbishop of Baltimore, and the Rev. John Allen.

Allen resigned in April 2002 from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Roman Catholic Church in Penbrook, after the Harrisburg diocese received what it called a credible report of his sexual misconduct with an adolescent at least 23 years earlier.

Hower was a seminarian sponsored by the Harrisburg diocese in 1985, when he was assigned as an intern to a Selinsgrove parish that Allen headed. The suit said Hower learned that summer about Allen's "inappropriate behavior with the young men from the local university." Hower complained to Keeler and was "fired from his job and banished," the suit said.

It said his ambition to be a priest met the same fate in Tucson, after he told the bishop there that he'd been sexually approached by the church's director of vocations and a priest from Yuma.

King said there is no record -- nor any recollection by "any present or past member" of the diocesan staff -- that Hower made any allegation against Allen.

King did not explain why the diocese withdrew its sponsorship, but said Hower's explanation was "completely without foundation


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.