The Untold Story: Why Are Molesting Military Chaplains Still Largely Hidden?

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Catholic Church

Military Chaplain Sexual Abuse Horowitz Law

Life’s a tumultuous journey, sometimes more so for military families. Can you picture it? You’re just a kid, and your mother or father is fighting for Uncle Sam. The scene of your life changes like the weather: new houses, unfamiliar towns, different states. Didn’t sign up for it, did ya? But you certainly did your time.

Now, amidst this whirlwind circus, a priest enters, the guy everyone reveres for his God-like compassion. A shining beacon of moral rectitude, right? Wrong. The priest betrays your trust and innocence in the most horrifying way possible and molests you. Then, fast-forward to age 52, around the average age when victims of these bone-chilling acts spill their silent screams.

The Cost of Speaking Out

After decades of shame, silence, confusion, and self-blame, you find the strength and courage to tell your long-time spouse how you suffered as a youngster and over the decades since. Bravo! But here’s the kick: how on earth are you supposed to remember the name of that tormentor from so many moons ago? To add insult to injury, how will you recall which military base or even which state you were in when your world caved in?

This soul-crushing dilemma keeps us at Horowitz Law awake at night. Yes, it’s hard for all survivors, but those violated by such predator priests who often ‘doubled’ as military chaplains sure take the cake.

Sacrificing for Sacrilege

Assaults on the kids of military personnel are particularly offensive, in part, of course, because mom and dad are already making enormous sacrifices for the safety of our nation. The audacity, right? These guys prey on the kids of our valiant servicemen and women who’ve given their all to defend this free world. It’s like rubbing salt on an open wound.

But wait, there’s more! Add to this grisly mix the fact that many a priest is shipped off to military bases only because they’ve left a trail of molested kids in their home diocese, forcing their bishops to play ‘hot potato’ with law enforcement and angry parishioners.

The Illusion of Safety: Military and the Molesting Men of God

At Horowitz Law, we’ve got a hunch that compared to their counterparts in local dioceses, there’s a greater number of child molesters hiding beneath the camo of US Armed Forces chaplaincy. A wild guess, you say? Maybe. But it’s wild scenarios like these that often go unnoticed, leaving the victims in perpetual distress. That’s why we’re spotlighting this issue, starting by naming some of the hundreds of suspected offender-priests who’ve served on military bases. Spread the word, raise a ruckus. Let’s put this gory cat among the pigeons if we have to. Remember, it starts with changing one life, then a hundred, then a thousand. Who knows? Maybe together, we can make a world of difference.

So, dear reader, pull up your socks and enter the ring. We at Horowitz Law are listing here just a few of the hundreds of abusive Catholic priests who work or worked at military installations or as military chaplains. We’ll have more to say on this topic later, but for starters, please review these names and share them with anyone you know or suspect spent any time around them. 


• Fr. Redmond H. Raux worked at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (and as an Air Force chaplain in Wyoming.

• Fr. Timothy Francis Sugrue, a Marist cleric, was a military chaplain in Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Georgia, Alaska, and the Philippines. 

• Fr. Gary E. Underwood was an Air Force chaplain in Louisiana and worked in Arizona.


• Fr. Thomas Chleboski (a.k.a. aka Fr. C. Thomas) faced criminal abuse charges in Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland.

• Fr. A. Joseph Maskell belonged to the Maryland Air National Guard, was accused of abusing girls, and is also the subject of an investigation into the murder of a nun. 

• Fr. Francis P. Wagner worked in Maryland and Washington DC as a US Army chaplain.

• Fr. Simon Kenny, who did two stints as a US Army chaplain.

• Msgr. Thomas A. Whelan spent most of his career in Baltimore but also worked as a US Armed Forces chaplain in India and Burma.

• Fr. Laurence F. X. Brett spent time in Maryland, California, Connecticut, New Mexico, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Mexico, and the Caribbean and reportedly conducted retreats for Air Force chaplains in California and perhaps elsewhere.

• Fr. Adrian Poletti belonged to the Passionist religious order and was in the military


• Fr. Alvin L. Campbell and Fr. Joseph Cullen O’Brien, both of the Springfield, IL Diocese

• Two Chicago area clerics – Fr. David B. Ball and Fr. William J. Meagher were both US Navy chaplains.


• Fr. Polienato Bernabe of St. Petersburg and Palm Beach was listed as an Army chaplain in the Ogdensburg, NY Diocese.

• Fr. John H. Dux of St. Augustine worked in High Springs, Gainesville, and the Charleston Diocese. He was a US Navy chaplain.

• Fr. Timothy Pathe of Pensacola-Tallahassee was originally from Ireland but also worked in the Mobile, AL Diocese. He was a US Army chaplain.

• Fr. John J. Whiteley of Venice, Naples, and Miami, who also worked in Missouri. He was a US Army reserve chaplain.

For a list of other military chaplains, see Another good source of information about abusive military chaplains is the reports by attorneys general who have investigated Catholic clergy abuse and cover-ups.

For example, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s 700-page report lists at least four such men:

  • Fr. Alvin L. Campbell and Fr. Joseph Cullen O’Brien, are both of the Springfield diocese.
  • Fr. David B. Ball and Fr. William J. Meagher, are both of the Chicago archdiocese.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s report lists several abusive military chaplains, including Fr. Raymond Lukac, Fr. Michael R. Freeman, Fr. Robert E. Hannon, Fr. Stephen E. Jeselnick, Fr. Roger A. Sinclair, Fr. Ibarra C. Mercado, Fr. John A. Genizer and Fr. James E. Somma.

The fight against child molestation by military chaplains might have flown under the radar so far, but no more. It’s time to pull back the curtain and stare this horrifying reality right in the face. After all, monsters can’t hide when the spotlight’s on them — and together, we’ll make sure it stays that way. Eyes peeled and hearts open, folks. It’s time for justice.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.