Report: Hawaii clergyman among 300 'predator priests' who abused kids

Report: Hawaii clergyman among 300 'predator priests' who abused kids
The exhaustive report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church comes amid a new push for victims to come forward. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
The exhaustive report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church comes amid a new push for victims to come forward. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Catholic priest who was assigned to the Catholic Diocese of Hawaii for decades is among 300 "predator priests" named in an exhaustive, 1,356-page Pennsylvania grand jury report released Tuesday.

The Hawaii priest, identified as the late Father Robert E. Hannon, was first assigned to dioceses in Pennsylvania before requesting and receiving a transfer to Hawaii in the late 1970s.

The grand jury report says the diocese in Erie, Penn. and the diocese in Hawaii knew that Hannon had "admittedly abused at least 20 youths" who were between the ages of 12 and 19.

Hannon admitted to the abuse while receiving treatment at Foundation House, a psychiatric facility in New Mexico, the report said.

The priest hasn't previously been identified as among the dozens accused of sexually abusing children in Hawaii in previous decades.

But the Pennsylaniva report comes on the heels of an investigation released last month by two law firms detailing 58 men of the cloth in Hawaii who were recently accused of abuse, which was alleged to have happened decades ago. They're in addition to other Hawaii priests already identified as predators.

Concerns about more priests being identified as abusers prompted the state Legislature to open a new window for civil suits this year. Victims now have until April 2020 to file suits in connection to decades-old abuse allegations.

Hannon, the priest in the Pennsylvania report, died in 2006 "in the good graces" of the church.

Among those he's accused of assaulting: A young girl, his only known female victim, who "was abused in Hawaii by Hannon on one of his many trips to the islands" before he was officially transferred to Hawaii in 1979.

The victim told church officials that Hannon fondled her underneath her underwear while he was tucking her into bed. The abuse happened more than once, the victim said.

In 2004, the Diocese of Hawaii interviewed the victim and deemed her claims "extremely credible," the report said.

But the Diocese of Erie sided with Hannon because he had previously abused only boys, the grand jury report said. Hannon, the report said, denied ever abusing girls, saying, "They do not have a penis."

The report notes that most of Hannon's abuse came to light when he was in Hawaii, where he was assigned to St. John the Apostle Church, St. Elizabeth in Aiea, Holy Trinity Church in Honolulu and elsewhere.

Monsignor Gary Secor, of the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, issued the following statement:

"This report represents a very dark period for the Catholic Church when members of the clergy sexually abused children, including here in Hawaii. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu remains committed to compassionate resolution and justice for those who were victims of abuse, as well as the continued implementation of multi-level internal safeguards, training programs and mandated reporting procedures to prevent this type of abuse from happening again."

The report, meanwhile, said that Hannon's admission of at least 20 victims "leads the grand jury to conclude that there were many more as yet unknown victims, both in the Diocese of Erie and in Hawaii.

It continued: "The investigation was unable to uncover the identities and experiences of these additional victims. This is due, in part, to the fact that the grand jury did not have access to the pertinent files from the Diocese of Hawaii."

This story will be updated.

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