Seminarian John (Jack) Tome
Diocese of Erie
Ordained: Failed out of seminary
Assigned as follows (as a student):
- 9/03/1963 – 5/31/1967: St. Marks’s Seminary High School, Erie PA
- Unknown -5/14/1974: St. Mark’s Major Seminary, Erie, PA
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Seminarian John (Jack) Tome:
According to subpoenaed records from the Diocese of Erie, the career of former seminarian John (Jack) Tome was short-lived. His file contained only four documents, including three documents reflecting his grades from high school and one expressing concern about his problems communicating with others.
However, the Attorney General’s investigators were able to learn much more about Tome during the grand jury investigation. Ultimately, the Grand Jury heard testimony from five members of the same family that Tome had abused all of them in the 1970s. The survivors reported that they were poor, dysfunctional, and dependent upon the Diocese of Erie for their mother’s employment at St. Brigid parish when the abuse occurred.
The first victim was a 12-year-old girl living in the Meadville area who was abused in her home in the mid-1970s. She testified that Tome fondled her on one occasion and that Tome represented to her family that he was a Deacon in the Diocese of Erie at the time of the abuse. A student at a major seminary would work as a deacon prior to his ordination to prepare him for the priesthood – they are basically “priests-in-training” at that point.
The woman said she recalled Tome wearing all black and displaying the trademark white collar that clergy wore. She reported that Tome, whom she knew as “Jack Tome” and Father Stephen Jeselnick, another priest accused of sexually abusing minors, would come to her home and drink with her parents until late at night. On one occasion after a night of drinking with her parents, her mother let Tome put her to bed after she had her nighttime bath. She testified that as she lay on her stomach in the top bed of a bunk bed, Tome placed his hand under her nightgown, then under her panties to her buttocks. She told the grand jury that she was frozen with fear as he rubbed and squeezed her naked parts.
The victim recalled that as Tome was fondling her, she held her arms tight to her body with her hands over her face. She didn’t recall when he left the room or how long the assault lasted.
After more of these nighttime assaults, the child gathered the courage to tell her mother what had happened. She said that her mother scolded her for trying to ruin Tome’s life and reputation. She added that she believes that her mother informed Monsignor Karg of the child’s allegations because Tome “disappeared for a while and then came back.”
An Entire Family Terrorized By Tome
The second victim, the younger brother of the first victim, was approximately 8 or 9 years old at the time of his abuse at the hands of the man he knew as Deacon Tome. He explained that at his age he did not know the difference between a Deacon and a Priest, however, he often saw Tome wearing vestments. He testified that he never told anyone of the abuse for over 40 years.
He testified that the abuse began in approximately 1974 and lasted for about a year and a half, occurring as often as once a week. He explained that it consisted of mostly oral sex. The act was performed on him and he was forced to perform the same on Tome. He was emotional as he testified, recalling his sexual abuse and remembering that he saw Tome naked, adding that Tome would often fondle him while they were in the car with his parents.
The second victim testified that he believes that Monsignor Karg knew full well of Tome’s behavior since he would often come over to the family home with Tome and drink with his parents at the same time Tome was there – and at the same time Tome was disappearing from the group for a long time to “say good night” to the kids.
The man testified that once he would fall asleep, Tome would find him and sexually abuse him. He expressed anger and frustration that Karg did nothing about Tome’s behavior. The victim went on to testify that he feared his little brother also becoming a victim of Tome so he took the abuse, hoping that Tome would not turn his attention to the younger brother.
The Third and Fourth Victims and Sisters
The third and fourth victims are the younger sisters of the first victim and asked that their testimony be read into the Grand Jury by an Agent of the Attorney General’s Office. In an interview with them about their abuse at the hands of Deacon Tome, they expressed the belief that it would be too emotionally traumatic for them to tell their story in person to a group of strangers. They indicated that their interview with the Agents would be the last time they ever wanted to speak of either their abuse or Deacon Tome.
Their abuse occurred separately after they went to bed and after Tome was done drinking with their parents, whom they described as “drunks.” They were very emotional in telling their story, often pausing to regain their composure. Each family member reported that they worked very hard for several years to try to forget about the abuse. Some of the few details they did recall were that it occurred between 1973 and 1979, however, they could not recall their exact ages.
The third victim said she was abused at least 10 times and her sister, the fourth victim, stated that she was abused 5 to 10 times. They each recalled that Tome would sometimes use a pool cue to abuse them. The third victim reported that Tome would often attempt to penetrate her with the pool cue and that when she would cry out he would use his fingers to digitally penetrate her.
Her sister, the fourth victim said that she did recall the pool cue but had blocked from her memory how Tome had used it on her. She did recall that he used his hands to abuse her.
All three of the sisters recalled how Tome would come to their house to drink and would often play hide and seek or tag with them. The first victim told the Agents that Tome would put his hands all over her and her sisters while playing these games. She said she didn’t think much of it when she was younger, however, after the abuse and getting older, she now sees that this horseplay was Tome’s way of groping the sisters.
The Fifth Victim was Abused by Two Priests
Finally, the Grand Jury heard from the fifth victim, the youngest of the family’s boys, who was between the ages of 10 to 13 years old when he was abused by both Tome and Jeselnick. He was not a member of the family that was terrorized by Tome as their parents drank with the parish pastor.
This man testified that Tome and Jeselnick would both engage him in oral sex and anally rape him. He indicated that Tome’s abuse occurred at his home and that Jeselnick sexually abused him in the rectory of St. Brigid.
He informed the Agents in his interview that he was abused 10 to 15 times, off and on with no regularity. This victim also testified that he observed both men naked and that he witnessed them sexually assaulting his sister, the third victim, as well as his oldest sister, who is now deceased.
It was the opinion of the first victim and her brother, who was not abused because he was in the military during this time frame, that the oldest and now deceased sister was also victimized by Tome and/or Jeselnick when she was a young girl. It is their belief that she was abused more than any of the other family members.
Tome is still alive and believed to be living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie. 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 Erie may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so please do not delay in reaching out to us.
Contact us at (888) 283-9922 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options today.