The stunning allegations of sexual abuse of minors against 72 priests or seminarians from the Diocese of Harrisburg over the past 70-some years is difficult to fathom, especially for the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church.
It is a sad era, a difficult time. We do hope the road to healing will begin from this low point (which may, in fact, sink lower with the pending release of a grand jury report detailing allegations of abuse across Pennsylvania).
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One of the more alarming realizations, however, that stands out through the diocese’s release Monday of the assignments of the accused priests is just how far and wide these men served in the diocese.
We took a deeper look at the case of one, the Rev. William Haviland, now deceased. While still living, he was accused of sexual abuse of a child; he was accused in a separate allegation after his death.
It’s common for priests to be reassigned throughout their careers, but for those with multiple documented allegations of abuse, one can’t help but wonder if some transfers were for reasons beyond the routine.
That, of course, is nothing we know for a fact.
What the diocese records do show is that Haviland served 14 assignments throughout the diocese from his first one in 1962 in York to his final one at Elysburg that ended in 2015. He died in 2017.
Haviland, after his ordainment in 1962, served in York from 1962-63. He was then at McSherrystown from 1963-65; Lebanon from 1965-68; Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, 1968-70; Shamokin, 1970-76; South Mountain, 1976-78; Gettysburg, 1978-83; Lancaster, 1983-87; Lewisburg, 1987-88; Danville, 1988-90; two different churches in Steelton from 1990-91 and 1991-95; in Sunbury from 1995-2010; and then Elysburg.
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The other accused priests had multiple transfers through their careers as well, though not many that match Haviland’s 14.
Even if it wasn’t because of knowledge of suspected abuse allegations, to see in black and white that these men believed to be “predator priests,” as the Attorney General’s Office has described them, were being moved around the region and finding new potential victims from such a large area, makes the allegations all the more alarming.