Fr. Francis J. Gallagher – Archdiocese of Philadelphia

| Dec 21, 2018 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father Francis Gallagher

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Ordained: 1973

Arrested: 1989

Reassigned to ministry: 1991

Suspended: 2002

Laicized (removed from priesthood): 2006

Assigned as follows:

  • 1973-1976: St. Katharine of Siena (Wayne, PA)
  • 1976: St. Henry (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1976-1989: Cardinal O’Hara High School (Springfield, PA)
  • 1976-1989: St. John Chrysostom (Wallingford, PA)
  • 1989: Cardinal Dougherty High School (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1989-1991: Leave of Absence/Inpatient treatment
  • 1989-1991: Immaculate Conception (Philadelphia, PA) (in res.)
  • 1990-1991: St. Cecilia (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1991-2000: Immaculate Conception (Jenkintown, PA)
  • 2000-2002: Mary, Mother of the Redeemer (North Wales, PA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Francis Gallagher:

Father Francis Gallagher was ordained a priest in 1973 and served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He served in multiple parishes throughout his career. According to media reports, in December 1989, he was arrested in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, for soliciting sex with two young men, ages 18 and 20.  When he was sent for inpatient treatment following his arrest, he admitted to sexually abusing two adolescent brothers. Yet he was returned to ministry when a team of treatment professionals at St. John Vianney, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said he was not a danger to minors. The handling of his case was examined in greater detail by the 2005 grand jury.

The New Jersey arrest occurred less than three months after Gallagher began teaching at Cardinal Dougherty High School, and two weeks after he abruptly resigned that position.  The Archdiocese of Philadelphia learned of the arrest a week later when a news reporter called for comment. Gallagher told them nothing.


Gallagher was ordered by the Cardinal to report to St. John Vianney Hospital for a psychological evaluation.  A little more than a month later, he was transferred to another notorious pedophile priest treatment center, St. Luke Institute, in Suitland, Maryland.  He remained in treatment for eight more months. During the course of his evaluation and treatment, he was required to give a sexual history, during which he admitted to enaging in sexual misconduct with two teenage brothers.

In February 1990, while Gallagher was still at St. Luke, his attorney negotiated a deal to have the criminal charges against him dropped, and ultimately expunged, so long as he completed the St. Luke Institute treatment program.  When Gallagher was discharged in October 1990, he reported to Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia, a makeshift “halfway house” where other priests “recovering” from various afflictions and doing aftercare were living, including other priests accused of sexual misconduct. He also assisted at St. Cecilia’s part-time, despite the fact that it had a grammar school.


In May 1991, Cardinal Bevilacqua returned Gallagher to full-time ministry at Immaculate Conception in Jenkintown.  Four days after the transfer became effective, Bevilacqua wrote in his own hand that he was concerned” about the Immaculate Conception assignment after reading that Gallagher admitted to molesting the two brothers.  However, he was not concerned enough to do anything, and Gallagher remained at IC for nine years, unrestricted. He had total access to the students at the grammar school, the altar boys, etc. There is also no indication that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia made any attempt to contact the boys’ parents.

The only consideration given to removing Gallagher from IC came in 1993 – when it was suggested that he be moved to a parish with MORE families than IC.  In 1996, he was asked to interview for another parish and, during his interview, he – Gallagher himself – “reminded” them of his arrest and thought that an assignment in Delaware County “would not be prudent” for reasons that were not made clear in the Philadelphia 2005 Grand Jury Report.


Gallagher’s name appeared on a secret February 1994 memo from William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Secretary for the Clergy, to James Molloy, the Vicar for Administration for the Archdiocese.  The purpose of the memo was to catalog the sexual abuse allegations kept in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Secret Archives, which are files traditionally accessible only by the archbishop and, sometimes, one of his designees.  Under Canon Law, the Archdiocese is required to maintain any potentially scandalous information in the Secret Archives. Of the summary nature of his descriptions Lynn wrote, “only basic information is contained in this report so as not to have too much in writing on this matter.”  Gallagher’s name appears in the section labeled “Guilty of Sexual Misconduct with Minors.” According to the summary, Gallagher had issues with alcoholism and “solicitation of adult males” (plural), and also admitted to mutual masturbation with “two adolescent boys with whose family Father had a personal friendship.”  He makes no mention of the priest’s arrest, except to note “no complaints ever filed.”

Five years after he wrote that memo in which he personally deemed that Gallagher was guilty of sexual misconduct with minors, Lynn authored another memo about a meeting with Gallagher.  In 1999, when the Chancery decided to reduce the size of the ministry team at IC, Gallagher asked Lynn if he could be considered for a pastorate. According to his notes, Lynn did not say “no.”  Instead, he wrote that he recalled Gallagher “had some kind of difficulty with sexually acting out,” as if it were a minor medical condition with no consequence. Lynn also recorded that Gallagher “said it would be best for him to stay away from Cardinal O’Hara territory,” referring to the high school where Gallagher taught from 1976-1989.  Gallagher reminded Lynn about the two brothers he molested. Fortunately for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Gallagher was quick to remind them of his misdeeds so as to avoid scandal, since no one else seemed to remember them, even when they saw evidence with their own eyes.

Nine months later, in early 2000, Lynn told Gallagher he would not be a candidate for a pastorate given his past admissions.  He was instead appointed to Mary, Mother of the Redeemer in North Wales. Again, his ministry in the parish and the grammar school were unrestricted.


Finally, in early 2002, as the depth of the public scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston was becoming regular national news, Cardinal Bevilacqua suddenly suspended several priests for allegations of sexual abuse, including Gallagher.  Bevilacqua asked Gallagher to petition for laicization (removal from the priesthood). Shockingly, Lynn suggested to Gallagher that he look into becoming a teacher, given his prior experience at Cardinal O’Hara and Cardinal Dougherty High Schools.  After all, he would have a clean criminal background check since police were never told about the two brothers he abused and the solicitation arrest had been expunged.

Gallagher is believed to be alive but his whereabouts are unknown.  He is 78 years old.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. 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 Archdiocese of Philadelphia 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 [email protected] to discuss your options today.