Priest Removed From Ministry Due To Sex Abuse Allegations Now Works For TSA

A Catholic priest who was removed from the ministry over sex abuse allegations has been hired by the TSA to be a supervisor at Philadelphia International Airport.

Until 2002, Thomas Harkins was a Catholic priest working at churches in South Jersey, when the Diocese of Camden had him removed from ministry because he sexually abused two young girls. Now, in a new lawsuit, a third woman is claiming to also be one of Harkins’ victims.

When asked about the suit by Philadelphia’s CBS I-Team, Harkins’ replied “I have nothing to say,”.

The new lawsuit, accuses Harkins of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl 10 to 15 times in 1980 and 1981 while Harkins was a priest at Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, NJ, with one assault even occurring in Harkins’ bedroom at the rectory.

The I-Team asked Harkins if the traveling public should be worried.

“No, they shouldn’t be,” he said.

“The public should not be worried with you in a position like this despite your past?” reporter Ben Simmoneau asked.

“I have nothing to say,” Harkins repeated.

He then used his TSA badge to walk into a restricted area where cameras are not allowed.

“They should know who they’re hiring,” said Karen Polesir, a Philadelphia spokeswoman with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). She believes Harkins’ TSA job is inappropriate.

“As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.”

A TSA official said that Harkins’ title is “Transportation Security Manager, Baggage,” and he deals mostly with luggage, not passengers.

“Sure, that’s his title,” Polesir said. “That doesn’t mean that’s where he stays, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t fill other roles when necessary.”

The TSA says all its employees go through a criminal background check before they’re hired, but because these cases are so old, criminal charges were not filed. A spokesman says the Camden Diocese settled the first two lawsuits with Harkins’ accusers, it has not seen this suit just yet.

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