Am I the only one who thinks this is rather hysterical?

So some guy who got dismissed from the priesthood in 2003 for being a perv turns up working for TSA at Philly airport:

A TSA official tells the I-Team Harkins’ title is “Transportation Security Manager, Baggage,” meaning he deals mostly with luggage, not passengers.

“Sure, that’s his title,” Polesir said. “That doesn’t mean that’s where he stays, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t fill other roles when necessary.”

The TSA says all its employees go through a criminal background check before they’re hired, but because these cases are so old, criminal charges were not filed. A spokesman says the Camden Diocese settled the first two lawsuits with Harkins’ accusers–it has not seen this suit just yet.

SNAP, natch, weighs in:

Situation like these are indicative of what happens when Catholic officials refuse to monitor child molesting clerics: they move elsewhere or get jobs elsewhere, usually interacting with the public where they can begin to meet and befriend single moms and vulnerable kids. (We think it’s much more prudent for Catholic officials to house pedophile priests in remote, secure, independent treatment centers. Also, when priests leave for ‘civilian jobs,’ we think it’s best if they work in factories or other places with little or no contact with the public.)

Soooo… some accused but never convicted guy who doesn’t actually have a criminal record (dismissal from the priesthood does not show up on criminal records) passes the background check for criminal records and is hired to do stuff with luggage. There’s no evidence that he’s done much of anything except do stuff with luggage since he got the job. So assuming the old-fashioned notion that he is innocent till proven guilty, why is this news? I mean, apart from the need to gin up hysteria in order to sell beer and shampoo. Are we to simply assume the mob mentality that the guy should never be gainfully employed ever again?

Meanwhile, SNAP seems to be saying that the transformation of America into a police state isn’t enough. The Church is apparently obliged to be a police state as well. At least, that’s all I can gather from the bizarre suggestion that the Church is apparently obliged to…what? Staple a GPS salmon tracking tag to former clergy and track their movements? The notion that the Church can or should “house pedophile priests in remote, secure, independent treatment centers” is hindered by this little thing called “reality”. You see, when you dismiss somebody from the priesthood (as SNAP rightly demands the Church do with pervy priests) that person remains what we call a “citizen of the United States”. It is not legal for the Church–or anyone else besides the state–to force citizens of the United States to be housed somewhere against their will. The term for this is “kidnapping”. Only Caesar gets to force people to live someplace against their will. When the state does it, it’s called “imprisonment”. If the state decides that Mr. Harkins needs to spend time behind bars, that’s fine by me. But blaming the Church for failure to do this indicates that somebody at SNAP has a screw loose.

I think the main thing driving this story is location, location,. location. Philly is in the throes of the latest edition of the priest abuse scandal and this just seemed like some good gas to throw on the fire. Beer and shampoo, not information or intelligence, is the lifeblood of the media.

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  • Mitch

    Yeah but maybe priests shouldn’t just be dismissed completely. When a cleric is dismissed from the clerical state the church can stipulate that they still say the office, be celibate, etc. It seems like it would be better if they were sent to live our their lives in a cloistered monastery as penance as a lay brother. Its what the church used to do with troublesome priests, for good reason. The priest has done something wrong, but the bishop is still supposed to have a father-like relationship to the priest and shouldn’t just go kicking him out of the house, he should send him somewhere that will be for the benefit of his soul as well as protecting others.

    • Rosemarie


      It’s too bad the late Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald couldn’t buy that isolated island in the Caribbean, then the Church would have a place to send these priests who molest minors.

      But yeah, I agree with Mark, the Church can’t both laicize them *and* then monitor them forever afterward. SNAP is being unreasonable. Even the government sometimes has trouble keeping track of sex offenders after they are released from prison. This despite the fact that it has laws, parole officers, registries, etc. in place for that purpose while the Church… well, doesn’t.

  • Carbon Monoxide

    I think SNAP has jumped the shark.

  • Harpy

    “…The priest has done something wrong, but the bishop..” – here let me fix this for you …

    “The priest has been accused of doing something wrong, but the bishop…”

    And *this* is the key element here. And accusation does not automatically mean someone is guilty. It may, or perhaps not.

    • ivan_the_mad

      I don’t think Mitch was talking about this case in particular. Mark’s point about innocent until proven guilty concerns how Caesar treats him – notice Mark did not write anything about the bishop and the priest’s dismissal from the priesthood.

      • Mark Shea

        Correct. I assume if he got the boot, he deserved it. But TSA has to play by civil, not canon, law.

  • “house pedophile priests in remote, secure, independent treatment centers” AKA prisons/interment camps.

  • So it’s both “How dare the Church not laicize priests accused of molestation!” and “how dare the Church laicize priests accused of molestation!” Can’t win for losing.

  • ajesquire

    We have abundant evidence here in Philadelphia that our oh-so-conservative, “orthodox” Cardinals largely turned a blind eye on pervert priests. The only priests who punished, for the most part, were those that spoke out against the disgrace of shuffling perverts from parish to parish.

    In that context, the fact that a priest actually WAS dismissed from the clerical state is pretty damning. But the bigger issue is that it is the Church that contributed to the fact that this individual was never even tried by the legal system. The Church conspired to cover up these heinous crimes and (and the allegations thereof) until the Statute of Limitations expired. It is the Church that continues to cover the crimes up by opposing the relaxation of the Statute of Limitations so that these crimes can be subjected to our legal process.

    So, no. “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t cut it when the pervert and his diocese helped make sure that the State would never even have a chance to prove guilt.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      So, no. “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t cut it when the pervert and his diocese helped make sure that the State would never even have a chance to prove guilt.

      Um, you need to learn how the justice system works. If there was an ongoing cover-up, and it can be proven, then the statute of limitations is extended. By your logic, the fact that he wasn’t prosecuted proves his guilt. There’s simply no arguing with that kind of thinking.

      • ajesquire

        Not under the 2007 Delaney case. (you need to learn how Westlaw works).

        In the Lynn Trial, the defense theory, put forward by the Secretary for Clergy, is essentially that “the Devil made me do it”. Only, he’s talking about the Cardinal Archbishop of the Diocese!

        • Ted Seeber

          Uh, I thought Lynn was accused of abusing children between 1996 and 1999. Unless Pennsylvania has an abnormally short statute of limitations on sex abuse (most states it’s 20 years past majority status, or 20 years past discovery in therapy, whichever is later) ALL of his crimes should still be within statute of limitations.

    • Ted Seeber

      Was it a real blind eye, or was it like in every other place in the world, sending the priest off for a 6 month “retreat” of therapy, at the end of which the APA therapist recommended “making him face his demons by putting him in charge of a school”?

    • Noah D

      It is the Church that continues to cover the crimes up by opposing the relaxation of the Statute of Limitations so that these crimes can be subjected to our legal process…“Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t cut it when the pervert and his diocese helped make sure that the State would never even have a chance to prove guilt.

      “What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

  • Brian

    SNAP is looney toons. Though they have been for some time now.

  • Ted Seeber

    Oddly enough, the Benedictines in my Archdiocese have a record of doing something similar- confining abused priests to a vow of silence and a monitored monastic cell.

    It might not be jail, and it might not be “a remote but secure treatment center”, but it’s pretty darn close.

    • dpt

      What will stop the priest from getting up and leaving? Ultimately I don’t see by what authority they can confine an individual in a monastery.

  • Barbara Dorris

    First, show us evidence that he only touches luggage. (Many TSA officials, especially during rush times, drop other duties and frisk passengers, including kids.)
    Second, no-one’s saying child predators should never work again. But if they fondle kids, they shouldn’t get jobs where they can fondle more kids. (There are plenty of factory and office jobs with little or no contact with the public or with kids.)
    Third, keep in mind that most predator priests are never convicted b/c their church supervisors and colleagues hide, minimize, and enable their crimes.
    Finally, bishops recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train, transfer and shield pedophile priests, while pretending to be Christ’s representatives on earth. So, yes, we feel that for the sake of public safety, bishops do indeed have a duty to warn parents and protect kids by doing more than quietly letting known child molesting clerics move on to be near unsuspecting families and colleagues in other places and jobs. At a minimum, they should post the names, photos, and whereabouts of proven, admitted and credibly accused pedophile priests on church websites, as some two dozen bishops have done.
    Don’t’ like this approach? Then what do you recommend, given that one in four girls and one in four boys will be molested? Advocate for a better plan. We’re all ears.

    Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688,

    • Mark Shea

      No. You see, in American law, it is “innocent till proven guilty”. You have to show evidence that he has done something actionable at the TSA. He doesn’t have to prove his innocence. And no, the Church is not obliged (or allowed) to staple tracking tags to American citizens. You want ’em laicized. So do I. After that, they are, for better or worse, free citizens of a free country.

  • And what is with the demand for ‘treatment centers”, when I thought the moral panickmongers were telling us that those convicted of sexcrime have to be subjected to lifelong confinement or surveillance or something because they are incurable and “can’t” be “treated’

  • Judy Jones

    There wouldn’t be this problem if the statute of limitations is removed so that child predators can be prosecuted and then they would have a background..
    Something to keep in mind—

    Child predators are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of god into their victims and sometimes even their family members.

    They also appear to do a lot of goods things, they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse

    Sexual predators are often powerful and well-loved. It would be comforting if those who preyed on the vulnerable were obvious social misfits whose appearance would somehow set off alarm bells and give us ‘the willies’ or ‘the creeps.’ They rarely do. Usually, predators are among the last people we would suspect of sexually violating others. At a party, the predator isn’t some oddball sitting alone in a corner because others feel uncomfortable with him. Most often, the predator is the guy throwing the party.

    We must overcome the dangerous myth that because someone is successful or warm or caring, he or she “couldn’t have done that!
    Also, we must stop thinking that because a man is old, that somehow he’s automatically “safe.” It’s just irresponsible to endanger kids by assuming an adult is “harmless” simply because he or she may be losing hair, wearing glasses, using hearing aids or walking with a cane. These can be signs of advancing age, but they are not signs that an individual is safe around kids.

    It is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. If someone can sexually abuse a child once, they are capable of doing it again. They can never be allow around children.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.

    • Mark Shea

      Your note is remarkably out of touch with any of the points I made. But thanks for playing.