Fr. Herbert Shank – Diocese of Harrisburg
Inpatient treatment: 1994
Assigned as follows:
- 1967-1971 Sacred Heart (Lewistown, PA)
- 1969 Boy Scout Chaplain
- 1971-1974 St. Joan of Arc (Hershey, PA)
- 1974-1975 Sacred Heart (Lancaster, PA)
- 1975-1981 Holy Spirit Hospital (Camp Hill, PA)
- 1981-1984 St. Patrick (Carlisle, PA)
- 1984 Immaculate Conception BVM (Fairfield, PA)
- 1984-1994 St. Rose of Lima (York, PA)
Summary of Allegations against Fr. Herbert Shank:
According to the grand jury report, in 1994, the Diocese of Harrisburg received a report that he had been sexually abused by Herbert Shank. The boy also reported that Shank molested his brother and five other altar boys. The report is not clear when the alleged abuse was supposed to have taken place, or what Shank’s assignment was at that time of the abuse, though it appears from other facts provided by the grand jury that the allegation was of very recent abuse at St. Rose of Lima in York.
The 1994 investigation at St. Rose of Lima
According to the boy, Shank took him on trips and he also spent the night at the rectory. Shank showed him photographs of teenage boys in various states of undress, some of whom he recognized as altar boys.
Shank requested, and was granted, a leave of absence while the allegations were investigated.
During the course of the investigation, a parish maintenance man reported to the Diocese of Harrisburg that he was aware of “a relationship between Shank and a minor,” and also that the priest had a large number of photographs of semi-nude boys. The Diocese of Harrisburg placed a great value on the fact that the man was not Catholic when evaluating his credibility. A second maintenance man who corroborated the facts given was discounted because he was apparently a recovering alcoholic.
A parish priest also confirmed that he found “hundreds of pictures of young boys” in Shank’s room at the rectory, as well as negatives of naked young boys and their genitalia.
In November 1994, another victim contacted the Diocese of Harrisburg to report that he was very concerned about what would happen to Shank’s photographs because he was in them. He also reported that Shank had called him the day to discuss the situation.
Upon all of this information, the Diocese of Harrisburg removed all of the photographs and videotapes in Shank’s rectory room. They had no contact with law enforcement before doing so nor for a very long time after.
In early December 1994, a third boy (who was by then a man) contacted the Diocese to report his abuse by Shank between 1971 and 1974. He was a sixth grade altar boy when the abuse began. It included fondling and oral sex, as well as photographing the boy while he was naked. Later that month, the Diocese of Harrisburg informed Shank that they would be reporting the matter to the District Attorney, which Shank apparently indicated he understood. Yet no report was made at this time.
Instead, the Diocese of Harrisburg waited another two months until February 1995 to contact law enforcement. It turned over “photographic negatives and videotape cassettes,” according to the grand jury, but it is not clear if it turned over everything it seized from Shank’s rectory room and secretly kept for more than three months.
Later allegations against Shank
In 2016, the Office of the Attorney General received a call from another victim of Shank. He reported that he was 10 years old and an altar boy at Shank’s parish (the name of which was not disclosed in the grand jury report). Shank often photographed him in his underwear and naked. Shank also rubbed his own penis all over the boy’s body during overnights at the rectory. Shockingly, the victim reported that Shank came to his home a few years later, in what seems to be the 1994 time frame, to ask the victim, “why didn’t you stop me?” as if the child was to blame for failing to control the priest’s deviant conduct.
In 2017, agents from the Office of the Attorney General interviewed members of the York Police Department who were on the job in 1995. One officer, who did not work the case but was familiar with it, confirmed that the videotape cassettes showed Shank “assaulting young boys.” He hid the footage by splicing it between recorded television shows. At the time, the victim would not cooperate with the prosecutor and the Diocese of Harrisburg assured police that Shank would be reassigned outside of York, so the matter was closed.
According to Diocese documents, Shank was at the Institute of Living, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests in Connecticut from late 1994 until at least mid-1997.
Shank’s 2018 interview with a local Fox affiliate
Since the release of the August 2018 grand jury report, several more men have come forward to media outlets to disclose their abuse by Shank throughout the course of his tenure as a priest. Each tells a story with details similar to those whose allegations are outlined in the Diocese of Harrisburg’s files.
In late July 2018, Shank gave an interview to the local Fox affiliate, denying that any of things that he did to boys (to which he admitted) were “sexual abuse” because the victims were important to him and seemed to welcome the contact. He told the reporter, “I’m deeply sorry for everything that happened. That, I think, is all I should say until I’ve talked to my lawyer and anyone else that was involved. Honestly, that’s all that they say. But in my situation, I didn’t fight it. I acknowledge that there were some situations and resigned and went to the Institute of Living in Connecticut and was in there for two years and four months. I couldn’t stay there in therapy but I wish I had. I think I would’ve been able to forgive myself better, maybe approach and say something to the people.”
When asked how many boys he may have molested, Shank to the reporter, “it certainly wasn’t more than very few but like I said I don’t want to go into that right now. I don’t know! I really don’t. I put the best faith on it possible and didn’t think of it being sexually molestation. Like you mentioned, it was massaging…Okay, fine that’s acceptable…” He continued, “[T]hese were people that were important to me in my own maybe messed up way. But they were not people that, I consider, were taken advantage of.”
Shank is still alive and believed to be residing in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, area. While it does not appear that Shank ever returned to active ministry after his time in the Institute of Living, his current status with the Diocese of Harrisburg is unclear. They have not confirmed publicly that he was laicized (removed from the priesthood), which means he may still be receiving a pension and benefits from the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Harrisburg. 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 Harrisburg now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or firstname.lastname@example.org today.