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District Attorney clears Bishop Kevin Rhoades of sexual misconduct allegation

DAUPHIN COUNTY — After a full investigation, the Dauphin County District Attorney announced this week that it determined there is no evidence that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ever engaged in a criminal or otherwise improper relationship with a juvenile while he served in the Archdiocese of Harrisburg. 

Rhoades was accused of misconduct last week by a member of the alleged victim’s family.

The witness did not view any inappropriate contact between Rhoades and the alleged victim, whom the District Attorney’s Office identified only as J.T. out of privacy concerns for the victim and his family. But the relative recalled that J.T. accompanied Rhoades and another man on a trip to Puerto Rico,  thought that  was odd, and felt compelled to report it, the DA’s Office said in its announcement. 

The Diocese promptly forwarded the report to the Dauphin County District Attorney.

After an investigation that included interviews with Rhoades, J.T.’s mother and the other man on the trip, the DA’s Office determined there was no misconduct in the case.

The DA’s Office determined:

  • J.T. turned 18 years old in July 1988.  J.T.’s parents were members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg
  • Bishop Rhoades had no connection to St. Francis of Assisi Parish until July 1988, when he returned from his second extended assignment in Rome.  Then-Father Rhoades served in Rome from 1979 to 1983 and from 1985 to 1988.
  • Bishop Rhoades would have had no opportunity to even meet J.T. before July 1988.  In fact, he did not meet J.T. until almost two years later.
  • The first time Father Rhoades met J.T. was at the Dauphin County Prison in 1990.  During the first quarter of that year, while at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Father Rhoades spoke to J.T.’s mother.  She indicated that her son was an inmate in the Dauphin County Prison and asked Father Rhoades to visit him.  At the time, J.T. was 19 years old.
  • Dauphin County Prison records indicate that J.T. was continuously confined at the prison from December 28, 1989, until April 6, 1990.  These records coincide with Bishop Rhoades’ independent recollection of events.
  • Rhoades later attended at least one of J.T.’s court proceedings and told the court that, if released, J.T. could do his community service at the parish.  According to Dauphin County Prison records, on April 6, 1990, Judge Sebastian D. Natale granted parole to J.T. and he was released from the prison.
  • During the time that J.T. was doing community service and spending time at St. Francis Parish, Father Rhoades decided to make a trip to Puerto Rico.  Father Rhoades planned to stay with relatives of a family of the parish.  A friend of Father Rhoades, a teacher, who was considering the priesthood, also made the trip.
  • Upon learning of the impending travel to Puerto Rico, J.T. asked if he could also join the trip so that he could visit his grandmother there.  Father Rhoades agreed.
  • All three men made the trip to Puerto Rico and there was no sexual or intimate contact between them.
  • The District Attorney’s Office interviewed the teacher by telephone as he lives in England.  The teacher  confirmed Bishop Rhoades’ account of the trip, and that there was no sexual or intimate contact between Father Rhoades and anyone else during the trip.
  • J.T. died on October 19, 1996.  At the request of J.T.’s parents, then-Father Rhoades presided at the funeral mass.
  • Detectives interviewed J.T.’s mother who corroborated Bishop Rhoades’ account.  She confirmed that the trip to Puerto Rico occurred when her son was in his twenties.  She never had any indication of sexual contact between J.T. and Father Rhoades.  J.T.’s father died in 2013 at the age of 84.
  • Upon re-interview, the relative who contacted the Archdiocese of Harrisburg with the allegation indicated that he was not certain of the timeframe, but he was sure that the contacts between J.T. and Father Rhoades occurred after 1986, based upon a milestone in his own life.  He conceded that it may very well have been when J.T. was in his late teens or early twenties.
  • Based upon the records relating to Bishop Rhoades’ assignments and the interviews of Bishop Rhoades and J.T.’s mother, the DA’s Office determined that Bishop Rhoades first came in contact with J.T. at the request of his mother while J.T. was an adult inmate of the Dauphin County Prison.  This contact was in the context of religious outreach to an inmate to provide spiritual guidance.
  • The DA’s Office determined that Bishop Rhoades’ travel to Puerto Rico with J.T. and another man considering the priesthood occurred when J.T. was an adult.  This was the only time that Bishop Rhoades traveled with J.T.
  • The report relating to multiple trips was the result of an honest, mistaken recollection and the passage of nearly three decades.
  • All of Bishop Rhoades’ contact with J.T. was in the context of pastoral care and arose out of the recognized tradition of prison ministry.

This has been a case of a public airing of mere speculation of impropriety with no foundation, the DA’s Office said. The DA’s Office said it regards this case as closed.