Were you or a loved one sexually abused by Father Francis Hudak, a Catholic priest who served in assignments widely throughout the Diocese of Harrisburg? Our experienced Pennsylvania sexual abuse attorneys are here to help.
A new grand jury report has uncovered evidence of widespread wrongdoing within the Diocese of Harrisburg. Officials within the Diocese, including bishops, have played a significant role in concealing sexual abuse, both protecting pedophile priests and silencing victims. In light of these damning revelations, our dedicated team of legal professionals have chosen to launch new investigations into historical cases of sexual misconduct.
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Proposed changes in Pennsylvania State law could open a "window of justice," a new time period during which survivors of sexual abuse are allowed to step forward and pursue justice in a court of law. We believe this is an important opportunity for survivors to have their voices heard. Needless to say, it is also an important opportunity for the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania to be held accountable for their inaction and negligence.
Francis Hudak died at the age of 75 on August 20, 2005. He was accused of sexual abuse after his death, when a survivor stepped forward and reported that Hudak had committed sexual misconduct during his time as a priest. Hudak's name appeared on a list of accused clergy members released by the Diocese of Harrisburg on August 1, 2018.
In releasing the list, the Diocese was attempting to head-off the publication of a damning grand jury report, in which sexual abuse allegations against over 300 Catholic priests were documented in excruciating detail for the world to see. The Harrisburg Diocese's list encompassed dozens of names, including 37 priests, who had been accused of sexual abuse in the past. Among the names was Francis Hudak.
Francis Hudak was ordained as a priest in Harrisburg at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in 1955. He began work in the ministry as an assistant at Assumption B.V.M. in Kulpmont, Pennsylvania, then went on to assignments at:
The priest was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March 2005, according to an obituary hosted on Legacy.com.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report has sent shockwaves throughout the Catholic community, reigniting old wounds first opened in previous sexual abuse scandals. The report is a chronicle, breathtaking in scope, of the numerous credible sexual abuse allegations against priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including the diocese of Harrisburg.
Beyond individual cases of sexual abuse, the report documents the great lengths to which each Diocese went to hide sexual abuse complaints from the proper authorities, silence survivors and protect dangerous pedophile priests.
In Harrisburg, the report singles out Monsignor Hugh Overbaugh, Father Paul Helwig and Chancellor Carol Houghton as having played particular roles in the handling of allegations of clergy sexual abuse. "The evidence," the grand jurors found, "revealed that Diocesan administrators, including bishops, had knowledge of [inappropriate sexual] conduct and that priests were regularly placed in ministry after the Diocese [of Harrisburg] was on notice that a complaint of child sexual abuse had been made."
From the evidence gathered by the grand jury, it becomes clear that leaders in the Diocese of Harrisburg have frequently concealed sexual abuse reports from secular authorities. Victims are often "dissuaded" from contacting the police. In some cases, sexual abuse complaints were subjected to an internal review, but the grand jury goes on to call these internal reviews "deficient" and "biased."
The allegations contained in the report against Harrisburg priests are horrific. In one case, we are told that a priest assigned to the St. John the Evangelist Church in Swatara sexually abused five of the eight young girls in a single family, often collecting samples of their urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood. Some of these samples he would ingest.
In 1987, a teacher at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote received a report that the priest was insisting to watch a student go to the bathroom. A young girl told the teacher that the priest did "wrong things" with young children. The complaint was immediately forwarded to Father Joseph Coyne, then on to the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Unfortunately, the priest was not stopped at this time. No attempt was made to remove the priest from ministry. The priest was allowed to continue ministering to his parishioners, and continued to abuse children.
In fact, he was allowed to remain in contact with children, even after he had admitted to molesting children. In an interview with Father Paul Helwig, the priest admitted to "having contact with" a 12-year-old girl in the bath and that "as time went on they became more comfortable with each other the embraces became more intense and involved some fondling on his part."
It was only five years later, after yet another victim came forward to report the abuse, that the priest would be arrested by police to face charges. The report continues to describe other similar cases, in which pedophile priests are protected from prosecution, even after they have admitted their misconduct and survivors have come forward.