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article imageEx-priest accused of child sex abuse gets job with TSA

By Anne Sewell     May 26, 2012 in World
Philadelphia - A former Catholic priest, expelled from the ministry over child sexual abuse allegations, now holds a position with the TSA at Philadelphia International Airport.
Thomas Harkins, the former priest, was observed working in a highly-frequented area at the airport by the CBS Philadelphia's I-Team.
Reportedly, Harkins works between Terminals D and E, a busy area of the airport that sees thousands of people, including young children, pass through each day.
The former priest served in Catholic churches throughout New Jersey until 2002 when he was accused of abusing two young girls. A new lawsuit is being brought against him by a third woman. The new complaint was filed against the Camden Diocese (New Jersey) on behalf of the alleged victim. The claim is that the child was assaulted 10 to 15 times by Harkins during the period 1980 to 1981. CBS reports that one of these alleged assaults occurred in Harkin's rectory bedroom at Saint Anthony of Padua Parish in Hammonton, New Jersey.
CourierPostOnline reports that the alleged victim, a North Carolina woman named Lisa Syvertson Shanahan, said Harkins molested her on multiple occasions in 1980 and 1981 at a Hammonton church. Apparently the assaults stopped when Harkins left the Saint Anthony of Padua parish suddenly in 1982.
According to the lawsuit, Harkins was removed from the parish after a second girl accused him of sexual assault. However, church officials did not make this complaint public.
Harkins was finally removed from the priesthood in 2002, after the diocese settled two complaints in the 1980's alleging he had abused young girls in Hammonton.
In the CBS video above, reporters confront Harkins about the new case and his alleged past actions:
The I-Team asked Harkins about the suit as he was leaving his shift at the airport.
“I have nothing to say,” was Harkins’ reply.
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.
According to victims' rights advocates, with his past history of child abuse allegations, the former priest should not be working in such an inappropriate role. However, the TSA claims that Harkins merely handles baggage and is not regularly in contact with children.
As charges were never officially filed for the alleged sexual abuse crimes, the TSA did not pick this up in their criminal background check when Harkins was employed.
While the Camden Diocese has settled the cases of the first alleged victims, so far no resolution has been met with the additional case.
More about Priest, Tsa, Child abuse, Transportation Security Administration, Philadelphia
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