A sweeping grand jury report released in August 2018 has uncovered damning new evidence of the extraordinary lengths to which leaders of the Catholic faith in Pennsylvania have gone in concealing clergy sexual abuse. The report's revelations have rocked a Catholic community that has become all too familiar with sexual abuse scandals.
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The report lists the names of 301 Catholic priests who became the subject of credible sexual abuse allegations, including 37 priests assigned to the Diocese of Allentown.
Among the names is Father Joseph A. Rock, a priest who served as pastor for St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in Mount Carbon, Pennsylvania. He left St. Francis in 1986, and was subsequently assigned to Holy Family Manor, a retirement home for members of the clergy in Bethlehem.
In an incendiary 1994 lawsuit, Father Joseph A. Rock was accused of sexually abusing a young altar boy, The Morning Call reported at the time. Father Rock served as a priest for the Allentown Diocese, under the leadership of Bishop Thomas J. Welsh and Monsignor Anthony D. Muntone. Welsh and Muntone were also named as defendants in the case. In his lawsuit, the 20-year-old plaintiff accused Welch and Muntone of failing to prevent the alleged abuse.
The plaintiff alleged in court documents that he was first attacked by Father Rock in 1983, at the age of 9. He said the abuse continued until 1986, when the priest was reassigned to serve at Bethlehem's Holy Family Manor. In some allegations, the plaintiff suggests that high-level officials within the Allentown Diocese had prior knowledge that Father Rock was a pedophile.
Bishop Welsh and Monsignor Muntone, in particular, are accused of having known that Reverend Rock "manifested conduct that was consistent with being a [...] pedophile," but continued to place the priest in a position where he "would have frequent contact with young boys and children of both sexes." The Church leaders, the suit continues, "even permitted [Rock] to be Scouting coordinator, despite his past history and tendencies."
In court filings, Rock denied the allegations. Attorneys for Welch and Muntone also denied any wrongdoing or negligence. In a written statement prepared at the time, officials representing Bishop Welsh wrote,
"it is with a deep sense of regret that the Diocese of Allentown acknowledges that formal allegations involving the sexual abuse of a minor have been made against [Reverend Rock]. We extend our prayers and sympathy to the alleged victim and his family."
While the outcome of the 1994 legal case is unknown, new evidence uncovered by the Pennsylvania grand jury shows that Joseph A. Rock was a known pedophile within the Allentown Diocese. Rock is mentioned by name in a letter written by priest Michael S. Lawrence to Allentown Diocese Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, in which Lawrence describes the "deep sense of frustration and anger" that led him to molest a 12-year-old boy in 1982.
Lawrence, who had already confessed to molesting the young boy, referred to Father Rock as a potential source of support during his time of difficulty, suggesting that Rock's history of pedophilia was a well-known fact within the Diocese at the time.
In light of these damning revelations, our experienced sexual abuse attorneys have opened a new investigation into Father Joseph A. Rock's time in the ministry. We believe that Rock may have abused multiple children during his tenure as the pastor at St. Francis de Sales.
If you or a loved one were abused by Father Rock, our deepest condolences and sympathies go out to you. We understand how difficult this time must be for you. Sexual abuse survivors often struggle to deal with painful and deep emotions of anger and grief, shame and embarrassment. Just know that this was not your fault. You are not to blame.
Nor are you alone. Our dedicated team of sexual abuse attorneys are here to help. Our only goal is to support survivors in their time of need and help them step forward with confidence.
The Diocese of Allentown faces serious allegations of evidence concealment. The grand jury report has uncovered convincing evidence that officials for the Diocese protected pedophile priests and silenced victims. We believe that the Diocese should be held accountable for any misconduct, both in the past and in the present.
Some survivors may be eligible to pursue justice in a court of law. You can learn more about these legal options now in a free consultation. Find more information about your rights at no cost and no obligation. Our PA sexual abuse attorneys can help you step forward with confidence.