Thomas Harkins accused of sexually abusing 11-year-old girl in new lawsuit
By Rheana Murray
A Catholic priest removed from the ministry ten years ago for sexually abusing young girls has found another job — with the TSA.
Thomas Harkins, once a priest at churches throughout South Jersey, now works as a TSA supervisor at the Philadelphia International Airport, CBS Philly reports.
He was forced to leave the church in 2002, when the Diocese of Camden found him guilty of sexually abusing two young girls.
Now, a third alleged victim has come forward, according to the station.
In a new lawsuit, Harkins is accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl as many as 15 times between 1980 and 1981. One of the alleged incidents occurred in Harkins’ bedroom at the rectory of Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, N.J, where Harkins worked at the time.
CBS Philly tracked Harkins down at the airport to ask if the public should be concerned about his past.
“No, they should not be worried,” Harkins said. “I have nothing to say.”
But Karen Polesir, a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn’t so tight-lipped.
“They should know who they are hiring,” Polesir told CBS Philly.
“As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.”
Polesir doesn’t buy into a TSA official’s reassurance that Harkins works mostly with luggage — not people — as a Transportation Security Manager in baggage.
“Sure, that’s his title,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that’s where he stays, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t fill other roles when necessary.”
Because the sexual abuse cases were so old, and the lawsuits were settled with the accusers, criminal charges were never filed against Harkins, which is why nothing registered when the TSA ran a background check, according to the station.