Bishop Kevin Rhoades accused of ‘odd’ relationship while in Pennsylvania; Fort Wayne diocese ‘adamantly’ denies wrongdoing

Bishop Kevin Rhoades

Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese Bishop Kevin Rhoades has been accused of misconduct, possibly of a sexual nature, dating from the time he served as bishop in Harrisburg, Pa.

According to PennLive.com, the Diocese of Harrisburg on Thursday confirmed that an allegation of misconduct had recently been filed against Rhoades, and that the accusation had been reported to the PA ChildLine and the office of the Dauphin County district attorney.

“We would stress that this is an allegation,” Harrisburg diocesan spokesman Mike Barley said in a statement to PennLive Thursday. “We will have no further comment until the investigation of the Office of the District Attorney is concluded.” Rhoades has not been charged, and the Fort Wayne diocese issued a statement saying “Bishop Rhoades adamantly denies any validity to this accusation and the insinuation of inappropriate behavior. He did nothing wrong, and is confident any investigation will bear this out.”

Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo said the alleged victim, a male, died in 1996 and was around the age of 18 when the alleged incident happened. “It’s early on, but the victim is long dead,” Chardo told PennLive. “A first-hand account would not be possible. The report alleged that they perceived the relationship as odd, but they did not witness any inappropriate conduct.” Chardo said his office received the report last month and has seen an increase in the number of reports alleging crimes involving Catholic priests since a Pennsylvania grand jury report was released last month.

“The report we received did not include an allegation of a crime,” Chardo told the York Daily Record. “We’re following up to make sure that there is no allegation of a crime by any person.”

Rhoades was bishop in Harrisburg from 2004 to 2009, The accusation comes weeks after the grand jury report unearthed widespread clergy sex abuse and its cover-up across six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania The Pittsburgh-based investigation identified more than 1,000 victims of alleged sexual abuse, rape, impregnation, coerced abortion and other crimes against church and state, committed by 301 priests and lay teachers.

Rhoades was mentioned in the report in connection with two cases, both of which occurred before he was appointed Harrisburg bishop in 2004. The case of William Presley, the report notes that Rhoades wrote that “were this information to become known . . . great public scandal would arise within the diocese.” Rhoades made a similar statement in the case of Francis Bach, stating disclosure would “cause a scandal to many, as he is still a priest who is beloved in our diocese.”

Last month, Rhoades announced at a news conference in Fort Wayne that he will release the names of priests in his diocese who have been credibly accused of sexually molesting children. “Protection of children is our No. 1 priority,” he said at the time. To the victims and their families, I offer my heartfelt sympathy and support . . . The church failed you. For that, I apologize.”

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