Fr. Francis “Frank” J. Fromholzer
Diocese of Allentown (Pennsylvania)
Sick leave: 1980
Named in civil litigation: 2002, 2004
Assigned as follows:
- Holy Ghost (Bethlehem, PA) 1958-1959
- Allentown Central Catholic School 1959-1965
- Holy Ghost (Bethlehem, PA) 1962
- Mary, Queen of Peace (Pottsville, PA) 1963-1965
- St. Paul (Reading, PA) 1965-1970
- St. Mary (Hamburg, PA) 1970-1975
- St. Paul (Reading, PA) 1975-1980
- Absent on Sick Leave 1980-1981 (not listed in Official Catholic Directory)
- St. Paul (Allentown, PA) 1982-1992
- St. Peter (Coplay, PA) 1992-1995
- St. Paul (Allentown, PA) 1995-2002
- Retired 2002
Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Francis Fromholzer:
According to the 2018 grand jury report, the case of Fr. Francis “Frank” Fromholzer, “highlights the immense challenges faced by victims when seeking redress from a Diocese that chose to take a position hostile to a victim. The influence of the institution is evident in many cases. In the case of Frank Fromholzer, it is particularly evident.”
Fromholzer was accused of sexually abusing at least two teenage girls while assigned as a religion teacher at Allentown Central Catholic High School. Both testified to the grand jury in 2016 that they were abused in 1965 on a trip to the Poconos organized by Fromholzer when they were approximately 13 or 14 years old. Abuse included fondling and digital penetration of the victims.
One victim also testified that the sexual contact continued on school grounds, particularly in the basement, under the pretext of weighing her because she was gaining weight and Fromholzer wanted to monitor her closely to make sure she lost it. The abuse stopped after her sophomore year when she was no longer in the same school building as Fromholzer.
The second victim told the grand jury that she reported her abuse by Fromholzer to the school principal, Fr. Robert M. Forst, who responded by expelling her, an all-too-common response for victims of sexual abuse in Catholic high schools. Forst also forced her to tell the story in front of her estranged father, before also calling her a liar and slapping her in front of him. When they returned home, her father then beat her with a belt for “making up” a story about a priest.
The women made additional reports in their young adulthood to two other Diocese of Allentown priests, Msgr. John Murphy and Fr. Weasel, and were rebuffed each time. Fromholzer continued in ministry unchecked despite the three cries for help.
In 2002, following the Boston Globe Spotlight pieces on the coverup of sexually abusive priests in the Boston area, one of the women made a report to police and the District Attorney, who were unable to pursue charges because of the expiration of the statute of limitations. Fromholzer continued working in a parish, despite the fact that the Diocese of Allentown received information that a police report had been made.
In fact, instead of taking action against Fromholzer, the Diocese of Allentown’s attorney, Thomas Traud, instead put his efforts into attempting to “undermine and discredit” the victim and her family. Her reports, as well as that of the second woman, were immediately disregarded as “false,” and Fromholzer elected to retire voluntarily instead of participate in a full investigation by the Diocese. However, Traud persisted in his efforts against the victims, according to the grand jury report. He compiled information for the Diocese of Allentown chancery, including information about the victims’ sexual history that he obtained from another priest, Msgr. Leo Fink. Notably, Fink’s own uncle, Fr. Felix Fink, was himself accused of sexually abusing minors during his tenure with the Diocese of Allentown.
Seeing no attempts to remove Fromholzer from his position over children as a Catholic priest, even if retired, the women both filed civil lawsuits in 2002 and 2004. They were each dismissed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
However, Traud’s efforts against the victims were not without eventual consequences: when the grand jury report became public, Traud was fired from his position as the Allentown City Solicitor immediately.
Sadly, the Diocese of Allentown’s efforts to undermine the victims is not a new or unusual story for those who reported abuse to diocesan officials. In our years of practice, we have seen similar tactics across the country, often accompanied by threats of excommunication from the Church, expulsion from school for those still young enough to attend, and public exposure of intimate, private or blatantly false information about the victim. It is no wonder so many victims opt not to report their experiences at all, which makes the persistence of these two women to protect children who continued to have contact with Fromholzer all the more admirable and commendable.
The grand jury concurred, saying of the Diocese of Allentown’s handling of the allegations:
“The Grand Jury finds that the Diocese of Allentown and the Allentown Central Catholic High School knew full well the criminal conduct of Fromholzer. Yet, knowing that Fromholzer was preying on young girls, the Diocese and School took no action. The victims were told to let it go. When these victims came forward again years later, they were met with disbelief and scorn. Ultimately, internal records show that the Diocese itself deemed [Victim 1’s] complaint against Fromholzer to be credible.
Victims are reluctant to report to law enforcement or take any action for fear of retaliation from the Dioceses. That retaliation and intimidation takes many forms. Originally, [Victim 1] did not seek any legal action against the Diocese. She simply wished to inform Weasel and Murphy of her concerns and for the Diocese to take action. Action only occurred when [she] began to speak to parties empowered to scrutinize the conduct of the Diocese: her own attorneys, law enforcement, and the press.”
Fromholzer remains a priest, though retired, and is believed to be residing in Florida.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Allentown. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Allentown may have legal options against the Diocese of Allentown.
Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or email@example.com today.