Put kids first in Catholic schools

A priest accused of child molestation continued to teach after church knew of allegations.

I have not yet accepted the fact that Rev. Dennis Killion, my former mentor, friend and high school vice principal, has been accused of being a child molester.

I haven’t because I’m too busy seething in anger and disgust.

A man I once held in the highest regard allegedly committed intolerable acts toward four male students at a Catholic high school in Wilmington, Del., during the 1980s. To make matters worse, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a religious order based in Wilmington and Philadelphia, may have been aware of the offenses and still allowed him to work with and discipline young males.

Killion was placed on administrative leave after he attempted to transfer from Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla., to St. Bede the Venerable Parish in Holland, Pa. His transfer was denied due to a lawsuit filed by Manly & Stewart Lawyers on behalf of its four clients.

Two days after filing the lawsuit, the attorneys released letters and information about a meeting between Rev. James Greenfield, regional provincial for the Oblates, and one of the plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuit only as John Doe. The letters, as well as the face-to-face encounter, were done in an effort to keep this situation and its contents under wraps.

The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, which has members who reside in various schools around the United States, allowed Killion to remain in the school system and work at two different all-boy schools — Archbishop Wood Boys High School in Warminster, Pa., from 1986 to 1990 and Father Judge High School in Northeast Philadelphia from 1991 to 2006. Archbishop Wood Boys is no longer an all-boy school.

Had I known of Killion’s disturbing actions prior to choosing a high school to attend, I would not have chosen to attend Father Judge High School. I would have also taken a closer look at the public school system.

Granted, there are cases of sexual misconduct in both the private and public sectors of the educational spectrum, but don’t the Catholic schools stress a loving environment, strong discipline and the “divine presence” of a religious order to convince parents of the schools’ merit?

I once had a teacher tell me and my classmates that she chose Catholic schools because of the respect, discipline and values students inevitably receive. Coincidentally, I wonder how she would feel if her co-worker, parishioner or friend was approaching her children for sexual favors.

I will never understand how a religious order, dedicated to spreading love and peace, could continue to employ and protect a criminal.

Tom Rowan can be reached at thomas.rowan@temple.edu.

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