Fr. Joseph Gausch – Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Father Joseph Gausch

Archdiocese of PhiladelphiaFr. Joseph Tausch Horowitz Law

Ordained: 1945

Suspension/Inpatient treatment: 1948-1949

Retired/named Pastor Emeritus 1992

Died: 1999

Named in civil lawsuits: 2004, 2006

Assigned as follows:

  • 1945-1948 St. Joseph (Jim Thorpe, PA)
  • 1947-1948 St. Alphonsus (Maple Glen, PA)
  • 1948-1949 Leave of Absence
  • 1949-1953 St. Anthony of Padua (Easton, PA)
  • 1953-1956 Our Lady Help of Christians (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1956-1961 St. Stanislaus (Lansdale, PA)
  • 1961-1964 Our Lady of Peace (Milmont Park, PA)
  • 1964-1973 St. Bridget (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1973-1977 Queen of the Universe (Levittown, PA)
  • 1977-1980 St. Aloysius (Pottstown, PA)
  • 1980-1999 Good Shepherd (Philadelphia, PA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Joseph Gausch:

According to the 2005 grand jury report, “Father Joseph Gausch began serving as a priest in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in December 1945 and based on the Secret Archive file provided, he started to abuse young boys almost immediately thereafter…There is every reason to believe that Fr. Gausch continued his reign of terror throughout his 54 years of service in the Archdiocese.  Yet because of the manner in which complaints of abuse were handled, neither the Grand Jury nor anyone else will be able to determine just how many victims this priest left in his wake.”

  • IN 1948, A FELLOW PRIEST TURNS OVER GRAPHIC LETTERS DESCRIBING SEXUAL ATTRACTION AND ACTIVITIES WITH TEENAGE BOYS

In 1948, Gausch was sent to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to a notorious pedophile priest treatment facility to do “penance for perversion and homosexuality.”  He was sent there by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia after another priest discovered letters Gausch had written to a third priest, Fr. Charles L.G. Knapp.  Knapp, an Augustinian priest, and Gausch were likely classmates at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and bonded over their attraction to young boys, apparently.  The letters described, in great detail, sexual contact that Gausch was having with teenage boys.

In a 1946 letter to Knapp, Gausch described going to see a high school football game, lamenting that he had to act interested in the game and not the players themselves. The “trick,” he said, “will be to appear interested in the game and not the players…The latest obstacle to my spiritual advancement is a 14 year old 7th grader…and sex has already made itself a nice place in his life.”

In a second letter to Knapp from 1946, Gausch expressed envy that Knapp was working with adolescents in his latest assignment.  He said, “I only hope it is less dangerous than my own escapades with male teenagers. I sometimes feel that it is just a question of when I am going to reach out and snatch.  I’ve come THAT close so often…” (emphasis in original).

In a third letter, Gausch described his happiness with his latest conquest, “Teddy,” and how much he looked forward to spending time with Teddy “after school” and his housebound grandmother.

In a 1948 letter, the excitement that Gausch felt about being asked to be alone with a small group of hand-picked 8th grade boys was palpable.  He wrote:

Letter from Fr. Gausch to Fr. Knapp Horowitz Law

Upon review of the letters, Cardinal Dennis Dougherty suspended Gausch and shipped him off to Wisconsin for eight months to deal with his “homosexuality.”  According to Church leaders, the age of the boys did not matter when evaluating the priest’s misdeeds- only their gender did.

There was no attempt to identify the teenagers involved or to contact their parents.

  • NOT SURPRISINGLY, GAUSCH IS ACCUSED OF MOLESTING A BOY AFTER HIS RETURN TO MINISTRY

After he completed his “penance” in Wisconsin, Gausch was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua in Easton, Pennsylvania.  He remained there until a transfer to Our Lady of Peace in Milmont, where he was again accused of molesting a boy.

According to a 1974 memo in Gausch’s personnel file, in 1964 he brought a boy he met at a local swimming pool back to the OLP rectory and molested him.  There were no other details in the personnel file reviewed by the grand jury, except to note that Gausch was immediately transferred to St. Bridget in North Philadelphia when the Chancery learned of the incident (which was not long after it happened).

At St. Bridget, Gausch regularly and repeatedly molested a 12 year old altar boy, who felt he could not tell anyone what was happening because of his family’s devotion to the tenets of the Catholic faith, including that priests were infallible messengers of God.  Gausch also told the child that no one would believe the boy if he told anyone because “nobody would believe a colored boy” over a priest. While it affected every aspect of his adult life, the altar boy told no one about the abuse until after Gausch died in 1999.

  • THE SOLUTION TO THE ST. BRIDGET “PROBLEM” IS A TRANSFER TO QUEEN OF THE UNIVERSE – WHERE GAUSCH SOON ADMITS TO MOLESTING A BOY ALMOST AS SOON AS HE ARRIVED

In 1973, Gausch was transferred to Queen of the Universe in Levittown. Not long after, the Chancery received information that Gausch was abusing the son of a prominent parishioner, and, according to the nuns in the school, he made “familiar advances toward the boys in the school” repeatedly.  

When finally confronted with all of the allegations against him in 1974, Gausch admitted that they were all true.  The Chancery’s reaction to this admission? According to an internal memo, the Chancellor concluded “because of the scandal which has already taken place and because of the possible future scandal, we will transfer him in the near future.”  It was left up to Gausch to decide if he needed psychological help himself.

  • ANOTHER TRANSFER, ANOTHER ALLEGATION – AND TWO PROMOTIONS

Gausch was then transferred to St. Aloysius in Pottstown.  He would receive one more transfer in his career – to Good Shepherd – which would also be a promotion to pastor.  In that role, he would be unsupervised his daily activities. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia took it one step further by honoring him with the title of Pastor Emeritus when he retired in 1992.  

In 1994, a 27 year old man reported that he was sexually abused as an altar boy at Good Shepherd in 1980.  He as 12 years old at the time. He also identified another boy that he witnessed being abused by Gausch during the period of his abuse. During a meeting with former Secretary for Clergy Msgr. William Lynn, Lynn asked the man if it was possible he simply “misinterpreted” Gausch’s actions, which included masturbating the child.  

Gausch denied the newest allegations and assailed his accuser’s “home life” as the reason he would concoct the allegations.  Gausch insisted he had overcome his past “problems” and refused to address them again. Lynn told Gausch that he had the full s support of the Archdiocese and would turn his efforts to investigating the accuser’s  background instead. No more investigation went into the allegations (or Fr. Gausch). Instead, Lynn tracked down former teachers and principals at Good Shepherd, who recalled that the victim was sometimes absent from school and was generally a below average student.  No attempt was made to contact the second boy identified.

Lynn, and subsequently Cardinal Bevilacqua, deemed the allegations unfounded as they concluded from those two facts that the victim was only after money.  Of course, they did not take into account that Gausch had been repeatedly accused of similar abuse in his past, and that the victim had no way of knowing that since the Archdiocese never told parishioners.

  • THE MOUNTAIN OF ALLEGATIONS CONTINUES TO BUILD AFTER GAUSCH’S DEATH

In 2000, yet another man reported abuse by Gausch at Good Shepherd.  The victim worked in the church rectory as a boy in the early 1980s. He reported seeing Gausch act inappropriately with other boys in the parish too.  Cardinal Bevilacqua personally read the letter and forwarded it to Lynn with directions to read it and file it away.

In 2002, another man reported to Lynn that he was abused as an 18 year old at St. Stanislaus parish (sometime between 1956 and 1961).  

Also in 2002, the Archdiocese received a report from a man who says he was abused by Gausch from 1963-1964 while serving as an altar boy at Our Lady of Peace in Milmont.  He says that, at the time it was happening, he told his father, who immediately confronted Gausch and told the parish pastor, Fr. Noll, what was happening. The abuse ended with Gausch’s transfer to St. Bridget’s not long after.  Of course, according to internal memos from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the reason for the St. Bridget’s transfer was related to the molestation of a different boy.

The number of allegations received since the publication of the grand jury report in 2005 is unknown, as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has never provided that information to the public voluntarily.  

Gausch has been named in at least four civil lawsuits since 2004.

Gausch died in 1999.  At the time, he was a retired priest in good standing who never once had his faculties restricted despite his admission that he was a serial sexual predator.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  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 Philadelphia now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com today.