Pennsylvania priest charged with groping 17-year-old girl: district attorney
Priest Praying' [Shutterstock]

A Catholic priest who prosecutors said groped a 17-year-old girl from his Allentown, Pennsylvania, parish was arrested on Tuesday and charged with assault and corruption of a minor, authorities said.

Father Kevin Lonergan, 30, was also accused of sending naked pictures of himself to the girl, identified only as “Jane Doe,” after obtaining her cell phone number from another member of his congregation, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said at a press conference.

“Many of the communications were sexual in nature, and he sent her nude images of himself over Snapchat,” Martin said of Lonergan, who lives with his parents in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

Lonergan was charged with one count each of corrupting a minor and indecent assault, Martin said, and faces up to nine years in prison if convicted at trial.

It was not immediately clear if Lonergan had retained a criminal defense attorney. A telephone number obtained for Lonergan by Reuters did not appear to be working on Tuesday.

He was taken into custody one week after Pennsylvania’s attorney general released a nearly 900-page grand jury report about sexual abuse by some 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania based on documents from secret archives kept by the archdiocese.

Lonergan’s arrest, stemming from incidents in December 2017 and January 2018, was unrelated to the grand jury report, Martin said.

The attorney general said the report, which followed a two-year investigation, was the most comprehensive report on Catholic clergy sex abuse in American history, nearly two decades after an expose of widespread abuse and cover-up in Boston rocked the Roman Catholic church.

The girl reported the contact to priests at Central Catholic High School in Allentown, Martin said. The Allentown Diocese removed Lonergan from his duties after prosecutors alerted them to the case, he said.

“The diocese cooperated fully with the law enforcement investigation,” the Allentown Diocese said in a statement on Tuesday.

Reporting by David DeKok in Allentown; Editing by Dan Whitcomb, Toni Reinhold