FORT WAYNE — As a sobering wave of abuse allegations within the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. continues to build, its full weight fell on the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend this month.
Recently, an allegation was filed in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, against Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades related to his time as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The concern was reported to the Diocese of Harrisburg by the cousin of a young man who died in 1996. The concern claimed that the relationship between Bishop Rhoades and the young adult seemed “odd.” The Diocese of Harrisburg reported it to the district attorney.
Numerous media outlets published and broadcast news of the allegation, which was obtained from an unknown source and released against the wishes of Dauphin County District Attorney Francis Chardo.
The Office of the District Attorney of Dauphin County promptly and thoroughly investigated the allegation. On Thursday, Sept. 13, the results of the investigation were released.
Official Statement by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend appreciates the swift and thorough investigation into the unsubstantiated allegation against Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. As anticipated, the investigation exonerated Bishop Rhoades. The district attorney found the allegation was without merit and stated, “After a full investigation, the Dauphin County District Attorney has determined that there is no basis to conclude that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ever engaged in a criminal or otherwise improper relationship.” The relationship in question was “in the context of pastoral care and arose out of the recognized tradition of prison ministry.”
While it’s important that allegations be brought forward, it’s equally important for due process to take place. The result of this investigation underscores the importance of allowing appropriate authorities to determine credibility of accusations before the reputation of any individual is impugned in the court of public opinion.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend stands firm in sympathy and support for all victims of child sexual abuse and encourages victims to report allegations. Bishop Rhoades expresses his gratitude for the support he has received from parishioners during the past week. He stated, “I have offered up the pain of this difficult time for the victim survivors of child sexual abuse.”
The same media organizations that were quick to make public an unsubstantiated allegation against Bishop Rhoades, prior to its investigation by the Dauphin County District Attorney, have been asked to publicize his exoneration in a similar manner.
After a full and timely investigation, the Dauphin County District Attorney determined that there was no basis to conclude that Bishop Rhoades ever engaged in a criminal or otherwise improper relationship with the young man in question. A media release from the district attorney’s office at the conclusion of the investigation notes that “the report by a member his family was made confidentially and without the expectation that it would be publicly aired. No witness has alleged observing any criminal or improper conduct by Bishop Rhoades with respect to (the young man referred to as) J.T. Bishop Rhoades and the family of J.T. fully cooperated in the investigation.”
“This has been a case of a public airing of mere speculation of impropriety with no foundation,” a media release from the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office states. “In this case, the leaking of what turned out to be an unfounded report did unnecessary harm. This has done a disservice to actual victims of sexual abuse. It has also caused significant and unnecessary harm to Bishop Rhoades.”
The Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office now regards this case as closed.
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