The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
In 2018, Kevin Lonergan, a priest at Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, was charged with indecent assault and corruption of minors. Longerhan later pleaded guilty was sentenced to 1-2 years in prison.
In 2021, Penn Live reported:
A Roman Catholic priest who groped a teenage girl and sent her nude photos and a video of himself wasn’t punished too harshly with a 1- to 2-year prison sentence, a state Superior Court panel has decided.
That ruling, outlined in an opinion by Judge Megan King, comes little more than a year after Lehigh County Judge Maria Dantos told Father Kevin Lonergan, “You have made families feel that church is no longer a safe place.”
King rejected Lonergan’s contention that his punishment, the maximum jail term allowable on his guilty plea to an indecent assault charge, was “manifestly excessive and unreasonable.”
Lonergan, now 32, fondled the 17-year-old girl’s buttocks in February 2018 while serving at the Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown. Before that, he sent the girl multiple inappropriate messages and nude photos of himself and a video that showed him masturbating in a shower, investigators said.
The girl told another priest about the incidents several months later and the diocese immediately suspended Lonergan from public ministry.
When he pleaded guilty in the case, Lonergan had no deal with prosecutors concerning his punishment, King noted.
Lonergan argued on appeal that the sentence Dantos imposed was far greater than probation officials recommended. He claimed as well that the county judge considered improper factors, including that he had been transferred to Saint Francis after a report that he had molested another teen girl in another county.
The Allentown diocese said Lonergan was transferred in 2016 only after a children and youth services investigation of that other allegation determined the report was unfounded. Diocese officials said they had promptly reported the earlier allegation to authorities.
In backing the prison sentence Dantos imposed, King found the county judge appropriately focused on the fact that the victim was “particularly vulnerable” because she was a parishioner at the Allentown church and he was a priest, a figure who was supposed to represent religious authority.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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