Priest Convicted in 1982 Worked at Padua
Man Caught Watching Porn with Teen Boys

By Beth Miller and Steven Church
News Journal [Wilmington Delaware]
September 30, 2005

A Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to indecent assault on two teenage boys in 1982, while on the staff at Padua Academy in Wilmington, was reinstated to ministry the same year and as recently as 2002 was serving at the Little Sisters of the Poor retirement complex in Ogletown, officials acknowledged Thursday.

Diocese of Wilmington officials say their policy since 1985 has been that no priest with credible allegations should be allowed to work in active ministry here. Thursday, they said they needed time to look into the facts surrounding the ministry of the Rev. Robert L. Hermley, 78, now of Childs, Md., who is a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, an autonomous religious order within the diocese.

Hermley was arrested in 1982 in Trevose, Pa., while watching X-rated movies at a local drive-in theater with two Philadelphia boys, ages 13 and 14. Nineteen pornographic magazines also were found in the car. Hermley, who at the time was director of college guidance at Padua, an all-girls high school, pleaded guilty to indecent assault. Charges of indecent exposure, corrupting minors and open lewdness were dropped. Hermley was given three years' probation by a Bucks County, Pa., judge and released into the custody of his religious order, which reinstated him into ministry and assigned him to duty in Vienna, Va.

Also Thursday, the Wilmington Diocese acknowledged credible allegations of child sexual abuse against the Rev. Joseph A. McGovern, ordained in the diocese in 1979 and accused of abuse in 1986. Diocese spokesman Robert Krebs said McGovern never returned to ministry here after the allegations.

Both men were mentioned in a grand jury report released last week by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. But only McGovern appears to have been included on the church-compiled list of 26 priests against whom diocese officials say credible allegations of sexual abuse have been made. The list now includes 20 diocesan priests - up from 19 last week - and six religious order priests.

Krebs was unable Thursday to provide more information about McGovern's ministry history or current whereabouts. The diocese has never released the complete list of names.

News Journal files show that McGovern was ordained by Bishop Thomas Mardaga in Wilmington in 1979, assigned to St. Mary Refuge of Sinners parish in Cambridge, Md., then transferred in 1980 to St. Catherine of Siena in Wilmington.

After the abuse allegations surfaced in 1986, the grand jury report said, McGovern was treated for pedophilia at St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., and placed on Depo-Provera, a sexual inhibitor. In 1987, McGovern was allowed to live at a rectory in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia while he studied at Temple University. But when archdiocese officials learned he was celebrating Mass at Holy Angels Church between 1987 and 1990, they ordered him to find his own residence.

Reinstated to ministry

The grand jury report also said Johns Hopkins University physicians examined Hermley and determined he did not need help. He was reinstated to ministry after his November 1982 guilty plea and one month later was assigned to a parish in Vienna, Va. Oblates spokeswoman Beth Trapani said he was assigned to a nursing home and the Oblates have not received any further allegations against him.

The grand jury report said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was notified in May 1987 of a mother's claim that Hermley sexually abused her son in the early 1980s when the boy was 10 or 11 years old. The Oblates investigated the allegation themselves, the report said. At the time, Hermley was working in Seaside Heights, N.J.

Diocese officials said Hermley was not on their list of six religious order priests with credible allegations. Oblate officials said Hermley was on the list they reported to researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to study the scope of priest sexual abuse.

Delaware Attorney General M. Jane Brady said Hermley's name never came up in an investigation her office began in 2002, as the priest abuse scandal was making national headlines. However, Brady said the Oblates told her one of their priests was an offender who was in "semiretirement" at Little Sisters of the Poor in Ogletown. The complex is across Salem Church Road from Christiana High School.

"He was not at a parish in Delaware where children might be available," Brady said.

Brady said one of the objectives of the 2002 investigation was to ensure that no offending priest was in a job in which he might have access to children.

Leading a service

However, Hermley was listed as the leader of an ecumenical service of thanksgiving to which the public was invited in an October 2002 item in The News Journal's religious calendar. The service was at Holy Family Church, a diocesan parish in Newark.

Later in 2002, Hermley moved into a retirement home owned by the Oblates in Childs, just west of Newark, Trapani said. A resident at the home reached Thursday who declined to identify himself, said Hermley was not available for comment.

On Wednesday, diocesan officials acknowledged a 20th diocesan priest against whom credible allegations had been made. Krebs said the priest now is dead, but would not name him, discuss the nature of the allegations, or say when or where he ministered.


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