Former Pa. bishop with ties to York City denies misconduct allegation
HARRISBURG – A former Pennsylvania Roman Catholic bishop who once served at St. Patrick’s in York City has denied an allegation of misconduct.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, where former Harrisburg bishop Kevin Rhoades now serves, told PennLive.com in a statement Thursday that Rhoades “adamantly denies” the accusation and that he “did nothing wrong.”
Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo received the report last month. Rhoades hasn’t been charged.
According to Chardo, the alleged male victim was about 18 when the incident happened. Chardo says the individual died in 1996.
“The report alleged that they perceived the relationship as odd,” Chardo said. “But they did not witness any inappropriate conduct,” he added.
The allegation would land within the statute of limitations.
“We would stress that this is an allegation,” said Mike Barley, a spokesman for the Harrisburg Diocese. “We will have no further comment until the investigation of the Office of the District Attorney is concluded,” added Barley.
Harrisburg service: Rhoades began with the Harrisburg Diocese in 1983 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in York. He went on to serve as bishop from 2004 to 2009. Rhoades left Harrisburg and was named bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese in January 2010.
David Clohessy, former director of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said he believes Rhoades should step down while the investigation is underway.
“I urge Catholic officials in Indiana and Pennsylvania to aggressively reach out to others who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes, misdeeds or cover-ups, by Rhoades or other clerics,” Clohessy said.
The accusation follows a landmark Pennsylvania grand jury report that claimed more than 1,000 children in six Catholic dioceses have been abused since the 1940s.
In York: Rhoades was bishop when he handled the allegations of abuse by a former priest, the Rev. Francis A. Bach, who was assigned to St. Patrick's and St. Rose of Lima, both in York City.
Bach, born in 1936, worked at St. Patrick's in York City from 1964 until 1965. He also worked at St. Rose of Lima in York City from 1975 until 1976.
The diocese first received a report in 1994, and it alleged Bach had abused a 13-year-old boy in 1969, when Bach invited the teen onto his boat in Maryland, the grand jury report states.
The abuse included kissing and oral sex as well as Bach taking pictures of the boy's naked body, officials said.
A former altar boy from St. Patrick's in York reported in 2016 that he was 8 when Bach fondled him, according to officials.
The report states that during treatment Bach admitted to abusing 14 victims, all between 14 and 16 years old. It also states that abuse happened in a motel and in a cathedral parish in Harrisburg.
Rhoades told the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith that he did not believe there was a need for any trial and Bach was living his life in "basic solitude, doing good when he can."
"Furthermore, the true reason Francis Bach left all priestly ministry is unknown to others. If his case is now brought to trial or given any kind of publicity, I fear it will cause scandal to many, as he is still a priest who is beloved by many in our diocese," Rhoades wrote. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith agreed with Rhoades.
Bach retired early in 1994, when the abuse allegations came out. He died in 2010.
In response to the report, attorneys for Rhoades said he didn't become involved with the allegations of abuse against Bach until 2007. He opened an investigation and instructed counsel for the diocese to notify the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office of the allegations and Bach's whereabouts, according to the response.
Rhoades did not recommend formal judicial proceeding because Bach had been out of the ministry for 13 years, had been living in another state without incident for many years, was in his 70s, and his last reported allegation of abuse appeared to have been in the mid-1970s, according to Rhoades' attorneys.
He was also in ill health, according to the response.
His attorneys also wrote that Rhoades did not intend to keep Bach's allegations a secret but did tell the proper authorities.
Staff reporter Christopher Dornblaser contributed to this report.