I imagine that when most people read this story on Philly.com — http://bit.ly/SZOkWU — they gasped in utter amazement, shock and disbelief. After all, I had the same initial reaction.
While you are clicking on the link above I will tell you that the story in a nutshell is that a defrocked Catholic priest, accused but never charged with molesting kids, was hired by the Transportation Security Administration at Philly airport. His job? Security officer. And yes, that job included patting down passengers.
Thomas Harkins, the defrocked priest, was hired by the TSA around 2002 as part of the mass hiring it did after 9/11. They hired him before completing a complete background check. In 2003, according to Philly.com, the Philadelphia Archdiocese told the TSA that the priest had been removed from ministry because of allegations he had molested two young girls. Apparently, the TSA did nothing after it received word of the allegations.
Now I would say initially I was outraged by what seemed like a major screw up on the part of the TSA. But meanwhile, Philly.com reported that Harkins, now 65, has lived in New Jersey and in fact, has been promoted within the TSA and oversees screening operations related to checked baggage. He earns more than $75,000 a year.
This is the part that I realize will not sit well with anyone…but here it goes anyway. While I was outraged at first like most who read the story, if Harkins was never charged with a crime then one, the TSA did nothing wrong. And that’s the toughest part of the story to deal with.
By reading the Philly.com story it became apparent that the Archdiocese did its priest shuffle sending Harkins to other parishes. He was again later accused by yet another youngster of molestation but again was never charged.
From the Philly.com story:
“Harkins was never prosecuted in the St. Anthony cases. The diocese did not report the allegations to law enforcement until 2002, after the statute of limitations had passed, records show. However, the diocese settled civil lawsuits for $195,000. By that time, Harkins was working for the TSA.”
So basically the information never reached law enforcement until it was too late to do anything about it.
So where does it leave Harkins? Well, like it or not the guy has a legal right to work for the TSA. While he may be to blame for the alleged incidents involving the youngsters the facts are that he was never prosecuted. It doesn’t even sound like the incidents were even investigated. The church settled the cases with cash. In fact, if the TSA had declined to hire him, Harkins probably would have had a fairly solid discrimination case. Wouldn’t that have been a kick in the gut?
The only thing we can be grateful for is that he apparently has no contact with the public. If this case doesn’t make you mad I’m not sure what will…
— Andy Hachadorian