The Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph has announced that Father Robert Harrison OFM cap has admitted to sexually abusing minors under his care. The fact that a Roman Catholic priest has sexually violated a child while standing in loco parentis is not new.
What is new is that Father Robert Harrison OFM cap went undetected for half a century.
Ordained in 1964, Father Harrison was well trained by the Hierarchy. Father Robert studied philosophy, theology, social work and law. Harrison was given the tools to detect weaknesses, select a vulnerable child and conceal his crimes for several decades.
What stands out however is that for over 50 years dozens of Archbishops, Bishops, Provincials, Pastors and Principles failed to catch a confessed child molester in their midst.
Before Father Harrison confessed he served under dozens of Roman Catholic officials including:
8 Capuchin Provincials, 3 Archbishops of Milwaukee, 4 Archbishop of New York, 6 School Principals and dozens of Pastors and local Capuchin superiors.
Harrison evaded several audits and reviews.
In 2002, the USCCB in Dallas ended the one bite philosophy towards child sexual abuse by clerics and religious. The conference of major superiors of Men in 2003 also promised zero tolerance.
An audit was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2003 of most of the 194 Catholic dioceses and 40% of the Religious Orders to understand the nature and causes of child sexual abuse by clerics. Harrison was not detected.
More recently the Capuchin Provincial allowed an independent team to audit their internal files to root out men with dangerous proclivities from the Province. The team in fact found Capuchins with notice in their files and they were removed.
Most disconcerting and eye opening is that fact that the auditors found nothing in Capuchin files. Again Harrison went undetected.
So why now in 2015? Until Father Harrison’s faces the justice found inside a Courthouse we will not know what the Hierarchy knew and when they knew it.
Though too late for many of Harrison’s survivors, the good news is that Harrisons secret world is revealed.