Father Thomas Harkins
Diocese of Camden
Removed from ministry: 2002
Assigned as follows:
- St. Teresa (Runnemede, NJ)
- Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Camden, NJ)
- Holy Name (Camden, NJ)
- St. Anthony of Padua (Hammonton, NJ)
- Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico
- St. Mary (Cherry Hill, NJ)
- Holy Savior (Westmont, NJ)
- Camden Catholic High School (Cherry Hill, NJ)
- St. Stephen (Pennsauken, NJ)
- Immaculate Conception (Camden, NJ)
- Chaplain, Camden County Jail (Camden, NJ)
- Chaplain, Riverfront State Prison (Camden, NJ)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Thomas Harkins:
According to media reports, in 1979 or 1980, the parents of a young girl told the Diocese of Camden that Father Thomas Harkins abused their daughter after meeting her in religious instruction class. When the parents brought their complaint to another priest–who died in 2000–at Harkins’ parish, that priest responded by threatening the family with the loss of eternal salvation if they pursued the matter.
Harkins was sent away for treatment, with no public disclosure of the abuse allegation. There is no notation in his assignment history for any leave of absence or sick leave.
At about the same time he was in treatment, Harkins was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Hammonton and allegedly molested a second girl. When her parents complained to the Diocese of Camden in 1976, they were warned that pursuing the matter could damage the church’s reputation.
The Diocese of Camden later paid settlements in both cases.
In 2012, another woman filed suit alleging abuse from Harkins on multiple occasions in 1980 and 1981 at St. Anthony of Padua in Hammonton.
Despite a state law requiring that police be notified of abuse against minors, the church never contacted authorities in the Harkins cases. From 1993 to 2000, Harkins was assigned to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden, which was allegedly selected because the parish because it had few families.
Harkins was permanently removed from ministry in 2002 following the media coverage of the growing scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Harkins’ name appears on the February 2019 Diocese of Camden list of credibly accused priests. According to Bishop Sullivan, the list, “includes those who admitted to the abuse, those who were found guilty after a trial in the church courts or the civil courts, and others against whom the evidence was so overwhelming as to be virtually unquestionable.”
In April 2019, the Diocese of Gallup (New Mexico) added Harkins to its list of credibly accused priests. According to media reports, he served at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Page, Arizona, from October 1981 to January 1982.
Harkins Takes a New Job with TSA
Because no background check was performed on Harkins prior to his hiring, he was able to get a job with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after his removal in 2002. In 2003, the Diocese of Camden revealed to the TSA as part of the background check that Harkins had been removed from his ministry in the diocese because of allegations he had molested two girls in grade school.
Harkins was last known to hold the position of Transportation Security Manager assigned to baggage operations at the Philadelphia airport. People with this job title do not perform any screening functions and do not have physical contact with passengers or their property.
However, he has also held the position of Transportation Security Officer and Supervisory Transportation Security Officer Screening Manager. He did conduct pat-downs in those roles.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Camden in New Jersey. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in New Jersey, contact our office today. In October 2020, the Camden Diocese filed for federal bankruptcy protection. The Court will resolve all claims of sexual abuse in this process but strict filing deadlines will apply and no late claims will be considered, so contact us today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in New Jersey and nationwide. We can help.