Harrisburg man says teacher’s sexual abuse covered up by diocese


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There is another accusation of abuse against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg and the men who have run it for decades.

Patrick Duggan, 58, alleges in a civil lawsuit that a lay teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School in Harrisburg plied him with drugs and alcohol on numerous occasions and then sexually assaulted him.

Duggan says he met the lay teacher, Ronald Stewart, when he was 13.

The civil complaint filed Thursday in Dauphin County Court states that Stewart lived in a house next door to the school and that numerous boys would frequent the home and be offered marijuana, alcohol and harder drugs beginning in 1975 and continuing for a few years.

Duggan insists there’s no way nuns and priests at St. Francis couldn’t have known about the suspicious activity since they had to walk past Stewart’s house to get to their quarters.

He’s also confident Diocesan officials were told of Stewart’s behavior because the school did not invite him back after just one year as a teacher. The suit alleges church leaders knew about and covered up the wrongdoing.

Duggan’s statute of limitations has run out but his lawyer, Richard Serbin, will try to prove a cover-up and conspiracy. He says Duggan wasn’t eligible to participate in the diocesan-funded program to compensate victims because his abuser was not clergy, but rather a lay teacher.

Duggan says after Stewart was let go by St. Francis School, he became a substitute teacher in the Harrisburg School District. Stewart died in 2010, according to Duggan.

The lawsuit names current Bishop Ronald Gainer and previous bishops. In a statement, the diocesan spokeswoman said, “we can confirm the teacher in question was reported to law enforcement in 1993 after the only known allegation against him was first reported to the diocese.”

The statement went on to say, “based on what limited records exist, it appears this teacher only taught at St. Francis Assisi for some part of one school year in 1975; the diocese is not aware of any contemporaneous allegations of abuse against this former teacher from the 1975 timeframe.”

Duggan is an ABC27 employee but does not work in the newsroom. He sat down with Dennis Owens to discuss his allegations and the impact the alleged assaults have had on his life. You can see his full and unedited interview here.

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