Father Raymond Leneweaver
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Inpatient evaluation/treatment: 1975, 1980
Left ministry: 1980
Laicized (removed from priesthood): 2005
Assigned as follows:
- 1962-1964: Immaculate Heart of Mary (Chester, PA)
- 1964: Our Lady Help of Christians (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1964-1966: Roman Catholic High School (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1964-1966: Our Lady Help of Christians (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1966-1971: Cardinal O’Hara High School (Springfield, PA)
- 1966-1968: Sacred Heart (Clifton Heights, PA)
- 1968-1971: St. Laurence (Upper Darby, PA)
- 1971-1975: St. Monica (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1975: Leave of Absence
- 1975-1980: St. Agnes (West Chester, PA)
- 1980: Leave of Absence
- 1980: St. Joseph the Worker (Fallsington, PA)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Raymond Leneweaver:
The case of Father Raymond Leneweaver was examined in great detail in the Philadelphia 2005 Grand Jury Report. The grand jury was particularly troubled by the modus operandi of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the Leneweaver matter. “Despite the Archdiocese’s knowledge that Leneweaver was a chronic sexual offender, each time angry parents confronted Church officials with new complaints, Cardinal Krol merely transferred him to another assignment, where the priest remained in active ministry.” In 1980, according to a memo from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Chancellor, Leneweaver was being sent to Fallsington because “it is one of the few remaining areas where his scandalous action may not be known.”
According to the grand jury report, Father Raymond Leneweaver “began admitting his sexual abuse of boys to Archdiocese officials in the late 1960s.” In 1975, he admitted that he abused at least seven boys, beginning when some of the boys were 11 years old. He admitted to fondling, sodomy, and oral copulation with those seven, and “incidental” abuse with countless other boys.
- THE ARCHDIOCESE CREATES A MONSTER: THE EARLY REPORTS AND MOUNTAINS OF LIES
In 1968, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia received a report from another priest that Father Raymond Leneweaver had abused a boy over a two year period (1964-1966). The boy reported his abuse to the priest in 1966, shortly after his own abuse ended, because he suspected Leneweaver was still abusing two other boys. There is no explanation why the priest sat on that information for almost two years before bringing it to the Chancery.
Leneweaver admitted to abusing the boy who came forward, but denied any such contact with any other boys. He said that the boy was “jealous” because he had taken a special interest in other boys at his new parish, Sacred Heart, and that is why he came forward. One of the boys at Sacred Heart, S., was being abused at the time Leneweaver was confronted in 1968. This boy would not come forward to report his abuse until 2002.
He also said that the sexual abuse was just “a temporary lapse” as a result of depression caused by several stressors at Immaculate Heart of Mary: living with an alcoholic priest, ministering to a largely African-American population, and grieving the sudden loss of both of his parents shortly before his ordination.
However, both of Leneweaver’s parents were alive and well when he offered their deaths as one of the stressors that led him to act out by raping a child, a fact that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia could easily have verified had any investigation been done. Perhaps the rest of his lies and abuse would have been discovered and stopped as well.
But no other action was taken by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Despite what the grand jury called “admitted acts of pedophila,” Father Raymond Leneweaver remained a teacher at Cardinal O’Hara High School until 1971. He left after a “litany” of parents came forward to complain about him serving alcohol to their children, and the Archdiocese transferred him to St. Monica in Philadelphia, a parish with a thriving grammar school. An internal memo confirms that Chancery officials, including Cardinal Krol, were well aware of the abuse allegations that had been made before selecting St. Monica.
- ST. MONICA PARENTS WERE NEVER TOLD THAT AN ADMITTED SERIAL PREDATOR WAS NOW IN CHARGE OF THEIR KIDS
At St. Monica, Leneweaver formed a group of select boys that he dubbed the “Philadelphia Rovers.” Most of them were students at the school and also altar boys in the parish. They even had t-shirts made identifying them as Leneweaver’s clique. He often took them on outings around town, and sexually abused many of the boys in various ways. One of the boys would come forward in 2002, and tell the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that Leneweaver frequently took him out of class for no reason and brought him to the school auditorium for sex. Another boy would eventually report that he was forcibly raped by Leneweaver, who tried to make up for the trauma by giving the boy gifts and money.
Another boy told his brother what was happening, and his brother told their mother, only to be slapped and told never to repeat such lies about a priest. To his horror, his little brother continued to spend time with Leneweaver until one day, the boy came home with blood-stained underwear from being brutally raped in the church nursery. His father sought revenge with a baseball bat but was unsuccessful because another priest “interceded to prevent any violence,” according to the grand jury. The parents went to the parish pastor, Fr. Aloysius Farrell, and reported their son’s abuse. They also identified three other boys that their son had been abused. Farrell told them that going to police would be very bad for them and for the parish. Instead, they trusted Farrell to tell the Chancery, which he did in early 1975. Cardinal Krol was informed of the allegatoins in May 1975, and reminded this “was not Fr. Leneweaver’s first unnatural involvement.”
When confronted, Father Raymond Leneweaver admitted to sexually abusing many boys at St. Monica for year, even differentiating between those he “seriously” abused and the ones he “incidentally” abused “on swimming trips to the seminary, etc.” Levenweaver gave the Chancery the names of three specific boys in 7th and 8th grade that he abused at St. Monica. Yet, no one from the Archdiocese made any attempt to contact their parents. Instead, internal memos reflect a plan to quietly move Leneweaver from St. Monica since “general scandal” was not imminent. He was allowed to stay at St. Monica for several more weeks to attend a class reunion, that is until one of the parents threatened to raise the alarm about Leneweaver. Instead, Leneweaver was granted permission to go to Florida for psychological treatment and to spend time with his still-very-much-alive parents.
- EMBOLDENED BY A LACK OF CONSEQUENCES, LENEWEAVER BRINGS MISERY TO THE FAMILIES OF ST. AGNES
As if all was cured by a few months in the sun, Cardinal Krol assigned Father Raymond Leneweaver to St. Agnes in West Chester in August 1975. As with St. Monica, the parish had a grammar school. That is where he met A., a man who was abused by Leneweaver for more than four years starting when he was in 8th grade. In July 1980, shortly before A.’s senior year of high school, his parents received an anonymous letter that Leneweaver was abusing their son. They immediately informed the pastor at St. Agnes, who then informed the Chancery shortly thereafter.
As with the other allegations, the letter said A. was often pulled out of class by Leneweaver to be abused. He was also taken on camping trips and even in his own home when Leneweaver was an honored dinner guest. Leneweaver always gave the boy gifts or money after each incident.
The St. Agnes pastor told the Chancery that he knew that A., and other young boys, were “frequent visitors” to Leneweaver’s bedroom in the rectory.
Leneweaver admitted to the allegations. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia planned to take no action. However, the father of the boy threatened to tell police. Leneweaver was immediately removed and sent to Villa St. John Vianney for an evaluation and treatment.
During the two months in 1980 that Leneweaver resided at Villa St. John, two more boys reported that they had been sexually abused at St. Agnes.
Cardinal Krol’s solution was to transfer Leneweaver to St. Joseph the Worker in Fallsington, since it was one of the only places left “where his scandalous action may not be known.” Yet.
- INEFFECTIVE TREATMENT SHIELDED THE ARCHDIOCESE WHILE LENEWEAVER CONTINUED TO ABUSE KIDS IN BETWEEN THERAPY SESSIONS
While it is true that Father Raymond Leneweaver underwent psychological evaluations at St. John Vianney, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, before his assignments at St. Agnes and St. Joseph the Worker, the grand jury found that this was purely for public relations purposes. That way, “they could justify to parishioners who might question them why a serial child molester and rapist kept being assigned to new parishes.” However, each of the evaluations was seriously lacking; in one case, the evaluator had no idea that Leneweaver had ever been accused of abusing kids and attributed any issues to “his aging parents.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia would use that evaluation to explain to St. Agnes parents that they had been assured that they had no idea Leneweaver would be a threat to the little boy that he raped, or any other children in the parish. They did not disclose that the therapist did not have enough information to offer an informed opinion, nor did they point out that Leneweaver had never complied with any aftercare instructions.
Nor did the Archdiocese of Philadelphia do anything to stop Father Raymond Leneweaver from visiting the homes of teenage St. Agnes parishioners and writing to teenage parishioners at St. Monica during his 1980 evaluation/treatmen, including some that he had sexually abused. According to another priest, Leneweaver was suggesting that each of the boys come visit him at Villa St. John Vianney. Eventually, the mother of of the St. Agnes boys reported to the Chancery that Leneweaver was repeatedly asking her son to come to Villa St. John Vianney for racquetball, which led to him telling her that he had been sexually abused by Leneweaver in recent weeks (while he was residing at Villa St. John Vianney and in treatment), and that Leneweaver often “wrestled” with her other son in a way that made him uncomfortable.
- THE ARCHDIOCESE RUNS OUT OF PLACES TO HIDE LENEWEAVER IN 1980 AND THE CHILDREN OF FALLSINGTON ARE PUT DIRECTLY IN THE PATH OF A SERIAL PREDATOR
In September 1980, Cardinal Krol asked for an assessment of Leneweaver’s future parish assignment options from his chancellor. They were nearly out of options, he thought, since it seemed that Leneweaver had abused kids in almost every county in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. After rejecting the validity of psychological testing and pleas from fellow priests that Leneweaver not return to parish ministry, Cardinal Krol determined his best option was to assign Leneweaver to St. Joseph the Worker in Fallsington. No one there was likely to know about Leneweaver’s history so it seemed like a safe option for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, even if it was a terribly dangerous option for the children of St. Joseph.
In December 1980, very shortly after arriving at St. Joseph, it was Leneweaver himself, NOT Cardinal Krol, who brought an end to his ministry. He asked for a permanent leave of absence; he no longer wanted to be a priest. Internal Archdiocese memoranda indicate that Cardinal Krol accepted the request because it was clear that Leneweaver’s “orientation is an acquired preference for a particular method of satisfying an normal human appetite – an appetite which is totally incompatible with the vow of chastity and commitment to celibacy.” While the grand jury concluded that this language was a long-awaited admission that Leneweaver was an “incurable pedophile,” the language suggests that it could also be the homosexual nature of Leneweaver’s crimes that ultimately troubled the Cardinal. In our experience, that has often been the most troubling part of child sexual abuse to Catholic Church leaders – that the victims are male, not that they are children.
Leneweaver’s name appears on a secret 1994 memo written by former Secretary of the Clergy, Msgr. William Lynn, drafted to catalog sexual abuse allegations against priests that were kept in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s secret archive files at the time. According to Lynn’s summary, Leneweaver admitted to sexual acts (plural) with high school boys (plural) and that they occurred sometime before 1989.
AFTER 1980, LENEWEAVER WORKED WITH TROUBLED KIDS AND EVENTUALLY BECAME A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER
Leneweaver made multiple requests to return to active ministry between 1980 and 2000. Each request was denied. Instead, he filled his time with other jobs: he worked as a “Residential Counselor and Instructor” at a Jesuit -run residential program for troubled children for 10 years. He volunteered at a shelter for runaway and homeless youth. He taught Latin in a New Jersey public school district. And in 1997, with the blessing of Archbishop Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, who refused to allow him to return to ministry because of his long history of abusing kids, Leneweaver took a job as a public school teacher. After all, he had no criminal record. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia even provided him with a letter of recommendation for the position.
At the time that he appeared before the grand jury in 2005, Leneweaver was teaching Latin at Radnor Middle School in Montgomery County. He taught in North Penn and Central Bucks School Districts before that. One of the photos above is his school photo from Central Bucks West High School, though it appears most of his work was in middle schools.
Leneweaver remained a priest without faculties until his laicization (removal from the priesthood) by the Vatican in 2005. The reason for the 25 year delay in his removal is unclear.
Leneweaver died in 2015.
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.