Former Priest Thomas Harkins Accused of Child Abuse Works at Philadelphia Airport

Former priest Thomas Harkins (right)

A Catholic priest who was kicked out of the ministry over sexual abuse allegations now holds a position with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Philadelphia International Airport. Thomas Harkins, the former priest in question, was observed working at a highly-frequented area in the airport by CBS Philadelphia’s I-Team.

Harkins’ work area at the airport, which is reportedly between Terminals D and E, is a bustling place that sees thousands of people, including young children, pass through each day. Harkins previously served as a priest in Catholic churches throughout New Jersey until 2002, when he was accused of abusing two young girls (a new lawsuit being brought by a third women is now in process).

The new legal complaint, which was filed on behalf of the victim against the Camden Diocese (New Jersey), reportedly claims that the child was assaulted 10 to 15 times by the priest between 1980 and 1981. According to CBS, one of the purported assaults allegedly occurred in Harkins’ rectory bedroom at Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, New Jersey.

CourierPostOnline.com has more about the lawsuit:

A North Carolina woman has sued the Diocese of Camden, alleging church officials failed to protect her from an abusive priest in the early 1980s.

Lisa Syvertson Shanahan alleges the Rev. Thomas Harkins molested her on multiple occasions in 1980 and 1981 at a Hammonton church. The assaults stopped, the lawsuit says, when Harkins “suddenly” left St. Anthony of Padua parish in 1982.

The lawsuit asserts that Harkins was removed from the parish after another girl accused him of assaulting her, but that church officials did not make that public. Harkins was removed from the priesthood in 2002, after the diocese had settled two complaints in the 1980s that alleged he had abused young girls in Hammonton.

In what can only be described as an awkward dialogue, reporters confronted Harkins about the new case surrounding his alleged past actions as he was leaving his shift at the airport this week. Here are some highlights from the discussion (as per CBS):

The I-Team asked Harkins about the suit as he was leaving his shift at the airport.

“I have nothing to say,” was Harkins’ reply. [...]

The I-Team asked Harkins if the traveling public should be worried.

No, they shouldn’t be,” he said.

“The public should not be worried with you in a position like this despite your past?” reporter Ben Simmoneau asked.

“I have nothing to say,” Harkins repeated.

Watch it, below:

Some victims rights advocates believe that the former priest is working in an inappropriate role, considering the past allegations of child abuse that were waged against him. But while advocates are speaking out, the TSA claims that Harkins mainly handles baggage and that he is not regularly in contact with children.

While the TSA does do criminal background checks, charges were never filed for the purported crimes, as the cases were too old when they came to light. As noted, the Camden Diocese has already settled with the first two alleged victims. So far, a resolution hasn’t yet been met in the case of the third.

(H/T: CBS Philadelphia)