Fr. Thomas J. Benestad (Diocese of Allentown)

Msgr. Thomas Benestad

Diocese of Allentown (Pennsylvania)

Ordained: 1970

Leaves of Absence: 1978, 2001, 2006, 2007

Retired/named Pastor Emeritus: 2009

Assigned as follows:

St. Bernard (Easton, PA)                1970-1973

Lafayette College Newman Ctr.            1970-1973

Notre Dame High School (Easton, PA)        1970-1973

St. Thomas More (Allentown, PA)            1973-1978

Leave of Absence                    1978

Holy Rosary (Reading, PA)                1978-1980

St. Bernard (Easton, PA)                1980-1988

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Bethlehem, PA)    1988-2001

Sabbatical                        2001-2002

St. Francis of Assisi (Allentown, PA)        2002-2005

Notre Dame of Bethlehem (Bethlehem, PA)    2005-2006

Leave of Absence                    2006-2007

Ascension (Boca Raton, Florida)            2007-2009

Summary of allegations against Fr. Benestad:

Benestad retired from ministry in 2009 and continues to reside in the Palm Beach area of Florida, where he remains active in ministry.

According to the 2018 grand jury report, in 2011, the Diocese of Allentown received a report from a man who claimed that Benestad sexually abused him from 1981 until 1983 (ages 9-11).  A police investigation of the man’s allegation led to conclusion that he was reporting credible allegations. More specifically, he reported that Benestad engaged him in forced mutual oral sex under threat of punishment during his CCD classes.  However, because the statute of limitations had expired, Benestad has never been charged in the case.

The grand jury report also mentions that other allegations have been made against Benestad, without providing any additional details as to the context of the reports (time frame, types of contact, ages of the victims, etc.).  Benestad has denied all of the allegations.

Based upon our firm’s experience with inner workings of the Catholic hierarchy, there are some definite red flags in Benestad’s assignment history that suggest he may have been the subject of multiple sexual misconduct allegations during his ministry in the Diocese of Allentown.  For example, multiple leaves of absences and sabbatical are highly unusual for a priest who has never been accused of sexual misconduct. The timing of them, followed by his transfer to South Florida to end his career, suggest that he may have been required to undergo some type of evaluation and, later, treatment.  Additional clues could be contained in his personnel file, which has never been made public, so we cannot say conclusively whether that is the case. Benestad’s personnel files would be the subject of discovery in civil litigation against the Diocese of Allentown.

The Diocese reports that it has twice requested that Benestad be laicized (formally removed from the priesthood) but its requests have been denied.

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 adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com today.