Priest charged with abuse now works for the TSA in Philadelphia

Details, from the New York Daily News:

A Catholic priest removed from the ministry ten years ago for sexually abusing young girls has found another job — with the TSA.

Thomas Harkins, once a priest at churches throughout South Jersey, now works as a TSA supervisor at the Philadelphia International Airport, CBS Philly reports.

He was forced to leave the church in 2002, when the Diocese of Camden found him guilty of sexually abusing two young girls.

Now, a third alleged victim has come forward, according to the station.

In a new lawsuit, Harkins is accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl as many as 15 times between 1980 and 1981. One of the alleged incidents occurred in Harkins’ bedroom at the rectory of Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, N.J, where Harkins worked at the time.

CBS Philly tracked Harkins down at the airport to ask if the public should be concerned about his past.

“No, they should not be worried,” Harkins said. “I have nothing to say.”

But Karen Polesir, a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn’t so tight-lipped.

“They should know who they are hiring,” Polesir told CBS Philly.

“As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.”

Read more.


  1. Notgiven says:


  2. naturgesetz says:

    These people who were accused of abusing children shouldn’t be allowed to have jobs where there are people. Just let them starve.

  3. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    A friend of mine is a laicized priest who admitted to inappropriately touching a teenage boy many years back. He went on to have a successful career writing and editing.


  4. naturgesetz says:

    I’m glad to hear it.

  5. pagansister says:

    We can hope he isn’t “patting people down” at the airport! At least the Church removed him from dealing with children. However I wonder if the TSA had any clue when they hired him. When he filled out his application, I’m sure he certainly didn’t mention his ugly past.

  6. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    One would think that they would have done a routine criminal background check, don’cha think? I’ve had to undergo one for all of my jobs.


  7. People have been quick to criticizse the Church’s handling. Some parishes took it upon themselves to take responsibility for accused priests, get them away from kids, get them treatment, put them in a place where they could never committ these crimes again. But this opened them up to lawsuits. So now they do what every other business would do, if an employee is accused. They basically fire them and it becomes society’s problem. Would you rather the Church ships them off to a monastery for life, or they go to prison for 10 years and they are back out on the street. The solution is not as easy as the haters make it out to be.

  8. naturgesetz says:

    It’s covered in the story you linked. The incidents were so far in the past, that there could be no prosecution. Therefore, there was no criminal record.

  9. Notgiven says:

    Same was often said for the military handling of such.

  10. This development is not surprising in the least. The federal government and the Church have very similar ideas and cultures about transparency and accountability. Just wait. As the scrutiny builds, it’s a very sure bet this guy will get transferred to the other side of the country or even overseas, probably with a promotion.

  11. IntoTheWest says:

    Honestly…this is exactly the sort of thing that confirms everyone’s worst suspicions about everything everywhere all the time…

    So, this guy gets a job where he gets to not only touch children, but put them through a scanner that reveals their naked bodies, and all in the name of the completely bogus “security theatre” we’ve all been subject to since 9/11. Ain’t that just grand…?

  12. IntoTheWest says:

    How is that any better?

    You’re PROUD of this? Really?

    Touch a kid, you die.

    It’s the ONLY sane response to child molesters. No decent human being thinks it’s a GOOD thing that someone that evil goes on to enjoy a successful career. No one.

    Besides, it solves NOTHING. So he’s a writer and editor, not a camp counsellor. BFD. He can still go where he wants on his free time — park basketball courts, gyms, the beach, etc.

    Honestly, what is WRONG with people? Bragging that your child molesting buddy has a successful career? What the hell is wrong with you?

    What kind of freak is “glad to hear” that a guy who ADMITS to this sort of filth has a great job? Are you freaking serious?

  13. Wanting someone who sexually abused a child to go to prison does not make one a hater. We can and should pray for abusers, but we should also try to ensure that they are prosecuted and punished under civil law if they are found guilty.

    Also, contrary to what you’ve suggested, Ray, I’m not sure any individual parish in this hemisphere has the power or the resources to ensure that an abuser ends up in “a place where they could never committ these crimes again.” What’s to stop the priest from leaving that place (a monastery, let’s say) after three months or a year? No one can stop him from going on his merry way if there are no criminal charges against him (because the diocese never bother to pick up the phone and call the police, or they delayed so long in doing so that the statute of limitations had run out). It’s a BISHOP’s responsibility to do the right thing — personally, calling it in himself, not delegating it to someone else. Yes, it’s that important. And if things had been right in the Church, it would have always been the bishop’s job to report suspected crimes against children all along — and we wouldn’t be dealing with the after-effects of cover-ups and serial abusers all these years later.

  14. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    To be clear: He’s a supervisor for the TSA, so it’s unclear whether he actually touches anyone.


  15. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    Did I say I was proud of it? I was stating a fact. People can and do move on and make new lives for themselves that don’t necessarily involve interacting with children.

    I have an opinion about this, and complicated feelings about it, which I’ve chosen to keep to myself. I’m not making a public judgment one way or the other.

    You, however, are clearly happy to – toward the priest and toward me.

    I don’t tolerate screaming bullies. Try that again, ITW, and you’re out of here.


  16. IntoTheWest says:

    He’s described as primarily a baggage handler, but also as someone who may be filling in for others at various stations, so no one really knows what he’s had access to.

    Hopefully he’ll lose his job now. I can’t see how the TSA can keep him on. This is the very thing they promised the public they’d never have to deal with.

    Actually, given the recent WSJ articles on all this TSA “security theatre”, which included admissions from TSA agents that half the things they put the public through are pointless and don’t accomplish anything, maybe this is the tipping point — maybe public knowledge that creeps like this are somehow flying under the radar will force the TSA to revamp their protocols. I hope so.

  17. IntoTheWest says:

    So I should just say “how nice!” and not, as someone who was abused by a parish priest and as a parent, express outrage that people shrug this stuff off??

    Fine. Bye. Can’t tolerate this on ANY level. To me, this stuff is so wrong it’s NEVER to be tolerated ever. Ever.

  18. Midwestlady says:

    People with certain kinds of proclivities gravitate to certain kinds of jobs.

  19. joe mc faul says:

    I am as adamant as I can be as to Catholic bishops mishandling the abuse crisis and have been accused here of being anti-Catholic for my expressions of disgust regarding the Church’s handling of the clergy sex abuse crisis. Bishops are inexcusably culpable for their criminal handling of the crisis.

    It is unavoidable that people must still make a life for themselves. Part of their rehabilitation and society’s retribution process is making a living and living an improved life. In this case, the man was not convicted of a crime so he must make a living somehow. In doing so, I hope he can find peace.

    I can only wish him the best. I have been in a position similar to the Deacon’s. I could not personally be friends with anybody who I knew was a child molester but that may be my failing. I chose to terminate the relationship but I appreciate and also had the conflicted feelings. I know of ex-priests who are now drug and alcohol counselors and hold other service jobs. Peace to them.

  20. Peggy Hagen says:

    No *criminal* record – butdid they not contact his “previous employer” to find out why he left the “job”? Hard to believe there was no communication.

  21. Many, many people within the Church ( lay and clergy) know priests who are laicized as a result of abuse of children. For most of us, the original announcement was a source of shock and, if confirmed, we had to reconcile the person we thought we knew with the horrible, unimaginable charges. I personally found christian charity towards the defrocked priest I had known well for years not possible as a parent of young children. I am not saying this with pride. While I never would allow him access to the boy he baptized as a baby, I do wish I reached out to him after his very public fall from being a well regarded educator and priest to a short order cook in a remote town.

    After they leave the Church, no one would want those found guilty of such an offense in a position of oversight or access to children. Be fair, no one including Deacon Greg is excusing or minimizing this offense. The person at the TSA was highlighted because he was just named in a new accusation and lawsuit. In this day and age, the background check should address the access to children. But any job , anywhere?

  22. pagansister says:

    IMO, there should be absolutely NO statute of limitations on child molestation. IMO, that crime ranks right up there with murder. A person should never feel that since so many years had past, that they can no longer arrested & tried on a charge.

  23. pagansister says:

    Yes, I did note that Deacon, so I guess we can hope he doesn’t have actual “contact” with the passengers going through security.

  24. I am so disturbed by the absence of mercy in more than a few posts I have seen reading through these comments that I do not know what else to say than let those of you who are without sin cast the first stone.

    It is breaking my heart.

  25. Midwestlady says:

    It’s the parent’s job to call the police as soon as they find out about it if abuse has occurred. And charges should be pressed. In every case. This is the only way to stop this kind of crime.

  26. Midwestlady says:

    Then think about the absence of mercy shown to a child when he’s targeted for sex by a powerful adult who intimidates him and uses him.
    That should really break your heart.

  27. The cycle never stop this way. Children are being used to justify your hatred, as well. So they remain victims, you want to choose who can be victimized instead of forgiving. Do not project your rage, which belies, if you care to be objective, the wounded nature of your own being and shows how easily each of us can fall into our particular favorite sin.

    While children are , through their innocence, the easiest to relate to as victims, adults
    are victims as well, some of them having issues related to the manifestation of their weaknesses, some being related to their own childhood.

    God hung on that cross to give us pause to reflect upon all victims. I was taughht and I believe he loves everyone, even predators of children. They remain His children. Those who justify victimization of child predators, serve, primarily, to mollify, in themselves, their own inability to transend such pain or anger, whatever the basis, which may, ultimately, be a similar motivation for the behavior manifested by the
    molester who is the target of their own internal turmoil.

    We sin, Midwestlady. It is the hardest for many of us to address, on many levels, when the apparant target is young. The younger, often, the more pointed is our
    ire. I do not want, nor intend to cause you pain for caring so much for children.

    I know, children of all ages need to be forgiven but, my experience, hard and beyond doubt, witnesses to me that healing and REAL GOOD is often prevented by unforgiveness and the choice being made NOT to repent OF unforgiveness.

    Behaviors can change. At the heart of that change, is often, forgiveness. Constant harassment for past sins is not forgiveness. The cycle needs to be stopped.

    It is ALL heartbreaking.

  28. Steve I am not calling those who seek justice – haters. By haters, I mean the people who use the sexual misconduct of a minority of the preisthood to denounce our entire Catholic faith, to challenge the Bishop’s authority on every issue, and to accuse all Bishops of covering up crimes.

    Midwestlady has it right. It was the parent’s duty to contact the police when a crime was committed and the District Attourney’s job to prosecute. There were some Bishops who took responsiblilty and have removed the guilty priests from any further contact from children. But they never get credit for their actions.

    Pagansister – I can’t agree with you on this one. Statues of Limitation are there for a reason. The average person can’t remember what they had for dinner last Thursday, much less events that happened 30 years ago. How can there be a fair trial when witnesses can’t be reliable. It won’tt help the victims. I can tell you that first hand. Abuse is something you have to come to terms with and move on. The one’s pushing for the lawsuits are SNAP and their team of greedy lawyers. In my opinion the victims are getting raped again, by people using them to attack the Church. (sorry for the graphic language)

  29. Midwestlady says:

    Nice gloss. There are grades of sin. Snapping at the cashier in the supermarket is not only quantitatively different than ruining a kid’s life for your own lust, it’s qualitatively different. Child abuse is not some trivial bad habit. People who abuse children need to be convicted for life. It’s inexcusable. Even if it only happens ONCE.

  30. That’s where you are wrong. Very seldom do they use force. Most of these abusing Priests were very charismatic. Many Parishioners were shocked because they described these priests as being “so good with the kids” They were the buddy Priests that none of us suspected. The kids trusted them.

    I knew my abuser for 3 years, before he ever even touched me. I used to stop by the record store and hang our with him practically every afternoon on the way home from school. He invited me over to his house one afternoon to listen to some records, got me drunk and stoned, I never suspected him for one minute. And the worst part other than feeling ashamed, was that a friend that I trusted turned out to be a creep. Never told my parents what happened.

    Yes, I have mercy in my heart for him. I have forgiven him.

  31. It only ruins your life if you let it. Yes it’s a lousy way to have your first sexual experience. But lots of people have bad experiences their first time. Lots of people have terrible things happen to them. You don’t have to let it define you. You don’t have to let it ruin your life.

  32. Not that I don’t believe in justice. Abusers should be caught, given a fair trial, and be kept away from children.

  33. pagansister says:

    Ray, I see your point (don’t worry about the language you used) about time having an effect on memory—but, again IMO, even if one comes to grips with what happened to them , the person responsible should eventually be brought to justice (if you will) for what they did. I have a family member by marriage who has come to grips with her molestation, and moved on. In her case, it was her step-father (and apparently her biological father molested her too, before the parents divorced) who mistreated her. She left home at 17, and never returned. She has said he isn’t worth the hate. In this case justice has come in the form of cancer—he is dying from prostate cancer….and hasn’t much longer. Her mother claims she didn’t know of the mistreatment, and they have reconciled. Whether she did or did not know? Who knows–but she did marry 2 men who mistreated her daughter! There were other siblings from both marriages and she was the only one touched! No criminal actions were ever taken against either of them. That aside, I still feel that there should be an accounting legally for the criminal acts done, no matter the time. Of course if the victim doesn’t care to have it revisited—then in some cases the molester will continue to not be held responsible and as you basically said, it is up to the victims to decide. Some victims have not been able to come to terms with the past, and IMO, need to see some form of accountability occur.

  34. pagansister says:

    Anon: The saying of “let those without sin cast the first stone” really shouldn’t apply to wanting child molesters to be brought to justice for their crime. IMO there are degrees of “sin” and molesting a child or rape is one of the highest degrees there can possibly be. Somehow I have no mercy for a child molester any more than I have for a person who brutally murders another person. Just me I guess.

  35. Midwestlady says:

    That’s a crime, not a lapse of table manners. Did you prosecute this creep?

  36. Midwestlady says:

    I certainly hope so. Every time one of these creeps gets away with a crime, he is encouraged to find someone else to use. The only way to stop it is to prosecute them and put them in prison.

  37. Pagansister, That’s so sad about you family member. Some people had it much worse than me. Some people were in situations where they were trapped, couldn’t get away. They had to endure multiple encounters. Poor dear. Thank God she found the courage to leave. And thank God she was had the Grace to forgive her Mother. She probably never suspected. This is the reason I hate SNAP. They take poor victims and feul their anger, rather than helping them find the peace to heal and forgive. It should be the individuals choice. – Thanks for your inciteful and heartfelt reply PS. <3

  38. Your a wise man Anon. The cycle of violence has to stop with forgiveness and patience with those who do not understand and may never. We can only in Hope pray that all people can come to the spiritual level you are obviously at in your personal spiritual journey. Your a very brave man. I pause with a kind of holy ease at your response.
    To hold someone in there sin keeps them in great psychological pain, this is a fact, (not some soft treading fuzzy psycho-babble) which then will effect their spirital growth. Look at any of the spiritual giants of just the last two centuries and you will see this. Merton to name only one and that’s probable good enough. Do we really want to be the one who does this? Think about it carefully for a minute. Pray about it. I know from personal experience it takes a great deal of courage and strength. And we all should know where we can get help for it. Our personal (responses) to everything we do should be Christ centered. Especially when everything we say, do, and think, effects everyone. ITW and MWL, this does not mean we just let offenders go free or simply dismiss their crimes. It means, what is (your) Christ like rational response to them going to be? This is where our faith has to be driven not by mob rule, or by our emotions, but by what our (personal) relationship with God, Jesus, is.
    Anon, thank you.

  39. You are very welcome, Tom. If you can, pray for me.

  40. pagansister says:

    Anon, how many molesters have been let out of jail on probation, and re-offend? Many. Personally, I don’t have faith that a child molester can be rehabilitated. Forgive? Not likely that I can do that.

  41. Forgiveness is a process and a choice. There is always hope, for child molesters, for me and for you. Perhaps a cross for you is such forgiveness. I know this to be true, for myself. I am blessed with an ongoing need to forgive. Like you, at times it
    hurts so much and offends me so much, I loose sight of who it is I love, even more than myself or what makes sense or what even appears to be just. In the end, I am
    beginning to see how even when I work to forgive, there is so much of ME in the way; the best way to heal ME is to yield ME through forgiveness, most especially when I do not want to and when it hurts so badly that I just want it to stop.

    Funny, I sometimes wonder how good I could be if I had only learned this years ago. Then I realize, there’s ME, again, trying to anticipate God.

    On a very ME note, I wish it was so easy, Pagansister. Love you.

  42. pagansister says:

    Karl: I think I understand where you are coming from. Folks have to do what works for them. I appreciate your comments. Life isn’t easy—but for the most part, ’tis good.

  43. naturgesetz says:

    If it is true that child molesters cannot be rehabilitated, that means that they cannot refrain from molesting. The legal definition of insanity as a defense in a criminal case is an inability to distinguish lawful conduct from unlawful or an inability to conform one’s behavior to the requirements of the law.

    So this would mean that all child molesters are not guilty by reason of insanity, and they should be in mental hospitals, not prisons.

Leave a Comment