Fr. Robert Hannon – Diocese of Erie

| Jan 11, 2019 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father Robert Hannon

Diocese of Erie

Ordained: 1954

Transfer to Diocese of Honolulu: 1978

Incardination into Diocese of Honolulu: 1984

Died: 2006

Assigned as follows:

  • 1954-1955: Holy Rosary (Erie, PA)
  • 1955-1957: Sacred Heart (Sharon, PA)
  • 1957-1958: St. Boniface (Kersey, PA)
  • 1958: St. Luke (Erie, PA)
  • 1958-1965: Sacred Heart (Genesee, PA)
  • 1965-1966: Holy Cross (Brandy Camp, PA)
  • 1966: St. Matthew (Erie, PA)
  • 1966-1967: St. Cyprian (Waterford, PA)
  • 1967-1979: St. Matthew in the Woods (Erie, PA)
  • 1979-2006: Diocese of Honolulu (Hawaii)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Fr. Robert Hannon:

Fr. Robert Hannon was ordained a priest in 1954, who served in multiple parishes in the Diocese of Erie. According to media reports, in 2018, he was named publicly as accused in the PA Grand Jury report. Documents reviewed by the grand jury revealed that two different pastors asked to have Father Robert Hannon removed from back-to-back assignments after mere months. The reason(s) the requests of the pastors at St. Boniface and St. Luke made the requests is not clear from the grand jury report, but it certainly raises red flags about the young priest’s conduct.

Also according to the grand jury report, “as early as 1986 the Diocese of Hawaii [sic], and possibly the Diocese of Erie as well, knew that Father Hannon admitted to sexually abusing at least 20 youths between 12 and 19 years of age. The admission came to light while Hannon was receiving treatment for his behavior at Foundation House,” a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests located in New Mexico.

However, according to the grand jury report, the Diocese of Erie knew of at least one victim by 1981. That victim, later identified in the grand jury report as Victim #7, told his parents about his abuse in 1981, which ultimately brought it to an end.

The Diocese of Erie received another report of abuse in 1993 by a victim later identified in the grand jury report as Victim #6.  His allegation is set forth in greater detail below.

In 2003, the Diocese of Erie reported to the John Jay College study on clergy sexual abuse that it was aware of eight separate sexual abuse allegations against Fr. Robert Hannon.  Of these allegations, the grand jury noted that one was deemed “denied, not verified” based solely upon Hannon’s denial that he sexually abused that particular child. While Hannon typically sexually abused boys, this particular victim was a woman who said that Hannon molested her in 1974 on a visit to his parents’ home in Hawaii.  Notably, two officials of the Diocese of Honolulu interviewed the woman and advised the Diocese of Erie that the woman was “extremely credible.”

Much of Hannon’s personnel file in the Diocese of Erie is comprised of correspondence between the Diocese of Erie and the Diocese of Honolulu arranging for one or both to pay for his pedophia treatment and counseling over the years.  It also contained correspondence between Hannon and the Bishop of Erie, often acknowledging the amount of money being paid for that treatment and that trouble he was causing. In one particular letter, Hannon thanked Bishop Donald Trautman for a phone call that seemingly caused Hannon to cancel an annual trip back to Erie, a decision that Hannon called “a good thing – to avoid any warrants.”

According to the grand jury, Hannon’s personnel file set forth a general modus operandi for abuse: the victims were generally altar servers. He would congratulate them on a good mass with a hug and “a little green,” by his own admission.  That grooming led to a friendship between the two that he could exploit into sexual contact. In other cases, he ingratiated himself into the victims’ families, and when he would be invited to dinner, molested the children while the parents were in the next room.  Sometimes, he invited these kids to the rectory for a sleepover so as to molest them without the risk of being caught.

The eight allegations identified by the Diocese of Erie in the John Jay Study are summarized as follows:

  • Victim #1 is the only known female victim.  She says she was fondled by Hannon in Hawaii between ages 6 and 7 (1974-1975).
  • Victim #2 was 16 years old when he was molested by Hannon in the mid-1970s at St. Matthew in the Wood.  Hannon admitted to performing oral sex on the boy at least 12 times under oath.
  • Victim #3 was 12 years old when Hannon fondled him.  He later settled with the Diocese of Erie for $20,000.00 in 2002.
  • Victim #4 is identified only by a passing reference in Hannon’s personnel file.  He met with Bishop Trautman, who found the allegation to be “a good report.” The abuse lasted about 18 months during an unspecified time period.
  • Victim #5 was abused between ages 15 and 16 from 1978-1979.  The Diocese of Erie settled his claim for a paltry $5,000.00 in 2003.
  • Victim #6 was abused was abused between ages 8 and 10 in the late 1950s.  He said that Hannon took him on trips and frequently engaged him in oral sex while they were away.
  • Victim #7 was 9 years old when Hannon began molesting him in 1976.  The abuse lasted for five years, even after Hannon went to Hawaii. The abuse ended when he told his parents about it in 1981.  HIs parents contacted the Chancery to request a meeting with Bishop Alfred Watson – who never returned their phone call. The matter was later settled for $39,000.00 in 1995.
  • Victim #8 was 11 years old in the early 1970s when Hannon abused him at St. Matthew of the Wood.  He was one of Hannon’s altar servers and also cleaned the rectory. When the man reported his abuse in 2006, Bishop Trautman wrote that he assured the victim and his wife that “the priest accused of molesting him has long died.”  In reality, Hannon passed away less than six months prior to the report.

Hannon died in 2006.  At the time of his death, he had become incardinated into the Diocese of Honolulu and was residing at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Hawaii.  He remained a priest in good standing (albeit retired) at the time of his death.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie. 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 Erie 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.