Father Francis Gillespie
Diocese of Allentown
Assigned as follows:
- 1959-1963: St. Joseph (Girardville, PA)
- 1963-1965: Nativity H.S. (Pottsville, PA)
- 1963: St Patrick’s (Pottsville, PA)
- 1965-1969: Notre Dame (Bethlehem, PA)
- 1966-1972: St. Jane Frances de Chantal (Easton, PA)
- 1966-1972: Moravian College (student advisor)
- 1972-1974: Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Minersville, PA)
- 1974-1994: St. Joseph (Girardville, PA)
- 1994-1996: St. Margaret (Reading, PA)
- 1996-2002: Annunciation of B.V.M. (Catasauqua, PA)
- 2002: Retired
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Fr. Francis Gillespie:
Fr. Francis Gillespie was ordained a priest in 1959, who served in multiple parishes in the Diocese of Allentown. According to media reports, in 2018, he was first named publicly as accused of child sexual abuse in the PA Grand Jury report. It noted that the first of two brothers abused by Gillespie at St. Joseph in Girardville reported his abuse in 2002. The man said that Gillespie began grooming him when he was a 10-year-old boy in the 1980s. This gave way to seemingly-innocent touching like hugging and pats on the arm.
Once the boy became comfortable with Gillespie, he began asking the child about lust and sex. Other times, he told the boy to undress to be weighed so that the priest could track his weight. The boy knew that the behavior was odd but he was terrified and confused because of Gillespie’s position as a priest. The weighing soon gave way to “measuring” with a tape measure, which included the priest touching the boy’s naked penis. Sometimes, Gillespie would also have the boy dress up so Gillespie could take photos of him.
On one particular occasion, Gillespie gave him cold medicine and alcohol. He blacked-out and woke up next to the priest; both were totally nude. He also recalls incidents of the priest orally copulating him.
In 2003, the boy’s brother reported his own abuse to the Diocese of Allentown. As a 14-year-old altar boy, Gillespie would also keep him after mass to count the collection money. He too described being weighed and measured as Gillespie fondled his penis and buttocks. He also recalled at least one incident when Gillespie put him in a “full Nelson” wrestling move and rubbed his erect penis against the boy’s anus as the boy struggled to become free.
This second victim wrote a letter to the Diocese of Allentown shortly after his abuse ended in the 1980s, but never received a response. He did not know that his brother was abused until shortly before approaching the Diocese of Allentown again in 2003.
The Diocese of Allentown was aware of the possible threat Gillespie posed to children long before he retired from ministry in 2002. There is a dispute in the records whether Gillespie retired voluntarily in 2002, as the grand jury report indicates, or if he was removed from ministry involuntarily, as the Diocese of Allentown has publicly stated. The nature and length of his assignments early in his career are also consistent with those of priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct, which could also be investigated during the course of a lawsuit.
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.