Father Joseph J. Gallagher
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Faculties suspended: 2011
Permanently removed: 2013
Assigned as follows:
- 1963-1965 Assumption B.V.M. (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1965-1970 Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1970-1974 St. Michael (Chester, PA)
- 1974-1979 Ascension of Our Lord (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1979-1983 St. Monica (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1983-1990 St. Mark (Bristol, PA)
- 1990-2007 St. Richard (Philadelphia, PA)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Joseph J. Gallagher:
Father Joseph J. Gallagher was one of 21 priests suspended by Cardinal Justin Rigali following the release of the 2011 grand jury report, which identified more than 30 priests in active ministry despite allegations of sexual abuse in their personnel files. While no details were provided about the allegations that caused Gallagher’s removal from ministry, he would later be named in multiple civil lawsuits.
In 2006, a 44 year old man reported to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that he was sexually abused by Gallagher on a school trip “in 1968 or 1969.” Gallagher also asked him graphic questions about masturbation during his confessions. After very little investigation, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s internal review board deemed the allegation “unsubstantiated” because Gallagher was not assigned to the victim’s parish until 1970. As the grand jury pointed out, the finding was not made based upon evidence that the abuse did not happen, but rather upon a discrepancy that could have amounted to mere months because the victim could not remember if he was 7 or 8 years old at the time it occurred.
In October 2007, a second young man reported to Archdiocese of Philadelphia officials that he was sexually abused by Gallagher at St. Mark in Bristol during the 1970s. He was an altar server at the time and was able to provide the Archdiocese with the names of other altar servers that he believed may also have been victims. He reported that Gallagher repeatedly fondled him after confession – during which Gallagher would ask him graphic questions about masturbation. All told, the victim gave five separate interviews to Archdiocese investigators, and consistently told the same version of events each time. When the investigator questioned the other altar boys, they corroborated many of the details, including Gallagher’s predilection for asking about their masturbation habits. Another refused an interview but did tell investigators there were definitely “improper relationships between Father Gallagher and St. Mark’s students.” Another confirmed that he had accompanied Gallagher and the accuser to Gallagher’s mother’s house, where the accuser said he was molested the first time.
When confronted, Gallagher denied abusing the boy. He also denied hearing confessions in locations where multiple people said he did, such as the church sacristy. By the end of his interview, he was giving vague answers; rather than deny allegations, he would say he couldn’t remember one way or the other.
Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, as well as its similarities to the first allegation, the review board determined that this second allegation was unsubstantiated – there was no evidence to suggest the abuse occurred, according to the review board. Gallagher returned to active ministry in 2008. The review board did not think it was necessary to recommend restricting Gallagher from hearing the confessions of minor children.
In 2009, the 2007 complainant took his own life. His mother asked for a meeting with the St. Mark’s pastor, Father Mooney, through the Archdiocese’s victims assistance coordinator. She was ignored.
At the time of the release of the 2011 grand jury report, Gallagher was a retired priest in good standing who often did supply work at several parishes.
In August 2013, Archbishop Charles Chaput announced that Gallagher was permanently removed from ministry after the review board found that one or more allegations against him were substantiated. However, the misconduct did not meet the definition of sexual abuse, but rather “violations of the standards of ministerial behavior and boundaries.” Gallagher’s violations were serious enough that the review board recommended he never return to ministry.
No additional information about those violations was provided to the public, except for a general statement that priests removed for that reason generally had “boundary issues with children.” According to media reports, “Church officials have declined to release details on specific accusations but say boundary issues can include inappropriate talk or contact, sharing alcohol or pornography with minors or other conduct that may be construed as “grooming” a victim.”
The internal review board has never found that an allegation of abuse was substantiated. Therefore, Gallagher’s name does not appear on its list of accused priests.
Gallagher died in June 2018. He continued to be a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia until his death, and therefore will be referred to as “Father” or “Reverend” even in death. His funeral mass was celebrated by retired Aux. Bishop Robert Maginnis, which only underscores how little the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has done to make amends with victims of its misdeeds.
For information on accused priest Joseph P. Gallagher, click here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org today.