Bishop Rhoades cleared of any wrongdoing following investigation in Pennsylvania
The Dauphin County District Attorney has cleared Bishop Kevin Rhoades of any wrongdoing in connection with allegations he may have had an inappropriate relationship with a parish member in the 1990s.
The DA released the results of the investigation, which was prompted by an allegation made by a cousin of a man identified as J.T.
The cousin alleged there was an odd relationship between J.T. and Bishop Rhoades. The cousin alleged J.T. and Bishop Rhoades traveled together to Puerto Rico twice and South America once when J.T. was 13 or 14 years old.
The cousin did not witness any unlawful acts and did not receive any information from any other sources, but thought the conduct he remembered was odd and should be reported, the DA said.
The evidence indicates Bishop Rhoades didn't meet J.T., until J.T. was an inmate at the Dauphin County Prison in 1990, when J.T. was 19-years-old.
J.T.'s mother, who was a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg, asked Bishop Rhoades to provide spiritual guidance to her son.
J.T. was in the prison from December 28, 1989, until April 6, 1990.
Bishop Rhoades attended at least one of J.T.'s court proceedings and said J.T. could perform his community service at the parish, reports said.
While J.T. was doing his community service, he learned Bishop Rhoades and a teacher interested in the priesthood were going to Puerto Rico. J.T. asked if he could go to visit his grandmother.
The investigation showed J.T.. took this trip when he was an adult. It was the only trip the two took together.
The teacher spoke with investigators and confirmed Bishop Rhoades' account of the trip and said there was no sexual or intimate contact between him and anyone else during the trip.
J.T. died in October 1996 and his parents asked Bishop Rhoades to preside at the funeral mass.
Detectives also spoke with J.T.'s mother. She confirmed J.T. was in his 20s when he traveled to Puerto Rico. She also said she never had any indication of any sexual contact between J.T. and Bishop Rhoades.
The cousin who made the allegations was re-interviewed. The cousin conceded J.T. may have been in his late teens or early 20s when he traveled with Bishop Rhoades to Puerto Rico.
The DA stated in a release, "This has been a case of a public airing of mere speculation of impropriety with no foundation. In this case, the leaking of what turned out to be an unfounded report did unnecessary harm. This has done a disservice to actual victims of sexual abuse. It has also caused significant and unnecessary harm to Bishop Rhoades.
"We encourage reports of any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement and ChildLine (1-800-932-0313). But once reports are made to proper authorities, they should be fully investigated without public speculation about guilt. Where appropriate, we will bring charges. Here, we found no evidence of wrongdoing. We now regard this case as closed."
Official Statement by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend appreciates the swift and thorough investigation into the unsubstantiated allegation against Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. As anticipated, the investigation exonerated Bishop Rhoades. The district attorney found the allegation was without merit and stated, “After a full investigation, the Dauphin County District Attorney has determined that there is no basis to conclude that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ever engaged in a criminal or otherwise improper relationship.” The relationship in question was, “in the context of pastoral care and arose out of the recognized tradition of prison ministry.”
While it’s important that allegations be brought forward, it’s equally important for due process to take place. The result of this investigation underscores the importance of allowing appropriate authorities to determine credibility of accusations before the reputation of any individual is impugned in the court of public opinion.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend stands firm in sympathy and support for all victims of child sexual abuse and encourages victims to report allegations. Bishop Rhoades expresses his gratitude for the support he has received from parishioners during the past week. He states, “I have offered up the pain of this difficult time for the victim survivors of child sexual abuse.”