July 31, 2019 // Bishop

Bishop Rhoades named in broad lawsuit involving Harrisburg diocese

FORT WAYNE — Donald Asbee, 67, last week filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Harrisburg in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, alleging that he was sexually abused between the ages of 9 through 13 in the 1960s by two priests, Raymond E. Daugherty and Walter Sempko. Neither priest was included in last year’s Pennsylvania grand jury report, and both are now deceased.

Asbee’s Complaint also names the Diocese of Harrisburg’s current bishop, Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, and its only former bishop still living, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

The plaintiff — who first reported his abuse allegations to the Diocese of Harrisburg in 2002 (two years before Bishop Rhoades was installed as Bishop) — alleges that the Diocese and its Bishops, including Bishop Rhoades, somehow “covered up” such allegations and thereby delayed him from reporting the abuse or filing suit.

Bishop Rhoades was a young child when the abuse is alleged to have occurred.

Rhoades served as Bishop of Harrisburg from December 2004 to January 2010. One of the priests alleged to have perpetrated the abuse was unknown to him and had died 12 years before Rhoades was ordained as a Bishop. The other was living but retired at that time. Bishop Rhoades has stated that he does not recall receiving any reports of sexual abuse of minors by either of these two priests.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend provides the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

“Bishop Rhoades was saddened to learn of the horrific acts of child sexual abuse that Mr. Asbee alleges occurred within the Diocese of Harrisburg. Bishop Rhoades was himself less than 10 years old when these incidents purportedly occurred.  He is confident the litigation process will show that he did nothing wrong.

In all instances where he was aware of a credibly accused priest, Bishop Rhoades has promptly notified authorities and removed the individual from public ministry.  He stands by his record as a Bishop — both in Pennsylvania and Indiana — of protecting victims of child sexual abuse.”

At a press conference last week, Asbee’s counsel stated that each bishop who served in Harrisburg from the time of the alleged abuse, other than Bishops Gainer and Rhoades, is considered an unnamed defendant who would have also been named as a defendant in Asbee’s complaint if alive. Asbee’s counsel also stated his belief that the Pope was also culpable and that he would have sued him as well, but that it was hard to do so procedurally.

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