Fr. Joseph Thomas – Archdiocese of Philadelphia

| Dec 1, 2018 | Catholic Church, Sex

Father Joseph Thomas

Archdiocese of Philadelphia


Ordained: 1955

Unassigned: 1960-1963

Leave of absence: 1966-1970, 1971-1972

Inpatient treatment: 1967-1968, 1968-1969, 1969-1970, 1971-1976

Resigned ministry/faculties revoked: 1972

Laicized (removed from the priesthood): 1996

Died: 1996

Assigned as follows:

  • 1955-1957: St. Canicus (Mahanoy City, PA)
  • 1957-1958: Holy Guardian Angel (Hyde Park, PA)
  • 1958-1960: Our Lady of the Assumption (Strafford, PA)
  • 1963-1966: St. Augustine (Bridgeport, PA)
  • 1966: St. John the Baptist (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1966-1970: Leave of Absence
  • 1966-1967: Eugenia Hospital (Whitemarsh, PA)
  • 1967-1968: Sick leave: Villa St. John Vianney
  • 1968: Nativity (Warminster, PA)
  • 1968-1969: Sick leave: Villa St. John Vianney
  • 1969: St. Patrick (Kennett Square, PA)
  • 1969-1970: Sick leave: Villa St. John Vianney
  • 1970-1971: Corpus Christi (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1971-1972: Leave of Absence
  • 1971-1972: House of St. Joseph (San Francisco, CA)
  • 1972-1976: Henry Ohlhoff House (San Francisco, CA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Joseph Thomas:

Father Joseph Thomas was ordained a priest in 1955 and served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He served in multiple parishes throughout his career. According to media reports, in his name appeared on a 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 brevity in the summaries, Lynn wrote, “only basic information is contained in this report so as not to have too much in writing on this matter.”  

Thomas’ name appears in the section labeled “Allegations of Sexual Misconduct with Minors with No Conclusive Evidence.”  No additional information about the allegations is publicly available.

However, based upon our experience, we can see a number of major red flags in Thomas’ assignment history that suggest he may have had a long and ongoing issue with sexual misconduct.  First, the number of leaves of absence for non-medical reasons is suspicious. When priests are accused of sexual misconduct, they are sometimes given a chance to “discern their calling” by taking a leave of absence.

Next, there is a shocking amount of time spent at Villa St. John Vianney, a notorious treatment center for pedophile priests located in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  Generally, in our experience, such hospitalizations are preceded by one or more allegations of abuse.

Moreover, that he was transferred to another diocese – the Archdiocese of San Francisco – never to return, is also consistent with an ongoing and increasing risk of “scandal” in the home diocese of a sexual abuser, so sometimes the answer is to send them someplace new where no one knows them.  It is often labeled as a move for “health reasons,” like asthma or arthritis, that can be helped by a change in climate.

Of course, we cannot say any of this with certainty until we have seen the contents of Thomas’ personnel files, which would be requested in litigation.  But it certainly seems that Thomas’ history leaves us with more questions than answers.

Thomas died in 1996.  

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.