Priest booted for sex abuse finds job at TSA

A Catholic priest kicked out of the church over sex abuse allegations has found refuge with the TSA in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia affiliate of CBS-TV has discovered that Thomas Harkin, formerly a priest working in South New Jersey, was removed by the Camden Diocese in 2002 because church officials found he had sexually abused two young girls. And now a third woman has come forward and filed a lawsuit against the Diocese for the same allegations.

It accuses Harkin of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl 10 to 15 times in 1980 and 1981. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the alleged victim, claims the abuse occurred while Harkin was a priest at Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, NJ, with one assault even occurring in Harkins’ bedroom at the rectory.

Harkin was ordained in 1971. When the parents of the two victims contacted the church, they were told, in the first case, that they could “lose salvation,” and in the second, that they could “damage the church’s reputation.”

Harkin was supposedly sent away “for treatment.” The church paid the parents settlements totaling $195,000.

The church did not, however, report the abuse allegations to the police, as required by law.

Now Thomas Harkin has found another job: with the TSA at Philadelphia International Airport.

When the TV news crew tried to talk to him, Harkin “used his TSA badge to walk into a restricted area where our cameras could not follow.”

A TSA spokesperson said Harkin’s title is “Transportation Security Manager, Baggage.” That doesn’t mean, however, that he is restricted to handling baggage. He can still be called upon to do whatever the TSA requires on any given day. Including touching people.

The TSA constantly tells us it does thorough criminal background checks on its employees.

As we know, this isn’t the first time the TSA has had problems with child molestation, child porn, or sexual assault. The cases are well documented.

I have asked this question before, and I’ll ask it again: how are parents dealing with the possibility that their children may be molested as a condition of flying? And why are they willing to risk it?

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Ben Popken)