Father Robert Cofenas
Diocese of Allentown/Baltimore
Suspended from ministry: 2000
- 1973-1979: Newman Center (Bethlehem, PA)
- 1973-1975: Asst. Superintendent of Secondary Ed.
- 1975-1979: Newman Apostolate (Lehigh Univ.)
- 1975-1979: Newman Apostolate (Moravian College)
- 1975-1979: Notre Dame High School (Easton, PA)
- 1979-1980: Asst. Superintendent of Education
- 1979-1980: Ss. Simon and Jude (Bethlehem, PA)
- 1980-1981: St. Mary’s College (Emmitsburg, MD)
- 1981-1988: St. Ignatius Loyola (Sinking Spring, PA)
- 1988-1989: Our Lady Help of Christians (Allentown, PA)
- 1989-1990: Inpatient Treatment (“Sabbatical”)
- 1990-1997: Our Lady Help of Christians (Allentown, PA)
- 1997-2000: St. Catherine of Siena (Reading, PA)
- 2000: Inpatient Treatment (“Sabbatical”)
- April 2000: Suspended from ministry
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Fr. Robert Cofenas:
Fr. Robert Cofenas was ordained a priest in 1973 and served in multiple parishes in the Diocese of Allentown and Baltimore. According to media reports, in 2018, he was first named publicly as an accused in the PA Grand Jury report. It noted the Diocese of Allentown had actual notice that Cofenas was sexually attracted to young males as early as 1979, yet it allowed him to continue in ministry and in educational leadership positions for more than 20 more years.
Specifically, the Diocese received a letter from a Newman Center secretary who observed Cofenas spending a significant amount of time in his bedroom with a 16-year-old boy who was known to have a drug problem and looked “half-starved and in pretty bad shape.” The boy often spent the night at the Newman Center in Cofenas’ bedroom, according to the letter. Exactly what the Diocese did to investigate the allegations – or what it learned about his behavior – is not publicly known, but he was transferred soon after the letter was written. The Diocese of Allentown later requested Cofenas’ laicization in 2005, admitting to knowing that Cofenas had inappropriate sexual relationships with underage boys since 1979.
However, in 1981, Cofenas wrote to then-Bishop Joseph McShea and said, “Yes, I have failed again, but my problem is not so totally out of hand that I cannot, with God’s help and Dr. Zanni, work to master my situation. Incidentally, before now, I had experienced no failure in this matter since 1978.” Based upon our firm’s experience, it sounds as if Cofenas is referring to the “situation” of sexually abusing underaged (or otherwise vulnerable) boys, though we cannot say that conclusively until the letter – and Cofenas’ entire personnel files – are reviewed for better context. Such information would be made available to us during the course of any lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Allentown.
In 2000, the Diocese of Allentown received a report from a man who alleged he was abused by Cofenas in approximately 1986 at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, where Cofenas served as moderator of the youth group. Sexual contact continued for approximately three years and included oral sex. Cofenas admitted to his sexual contact with the boy when confronted by the Bishop, which resulted in him being sent to inpatient treatment at St. John Vianney, a notorious treatment center for pedophile priests, that same year.
After his removal from the priesthood, Cofenas continued working in secular education for the Bethlehem school district and also taught ESL classes to non-native English speakers. He remained active in the Catholic church as a layman. Cofenas died in 2013.
In April 2023, Maryland’s Attorney General released a report alleging 156 Catholic clergy members sexually abused at least 600 children over six decades. The report lists the names of the abusers, including Cofenas.
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.