Lehigh Valley

Allentown Diocese priest charged with sexual misconduct

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - One week after a grand jury report on clergy sex abuse rocked Pennsylvania's Catholic community, an Allentown Diocese priest finds himself in trouble with the law.

These charges aren't related to that report but they do allege sexual misconduct involving an underage parishioner.  

The Lehigh County District Attorney says 30-year-old priest Kevin Lonergan met the 17-year-old girl in August of 2017.

The DA says Lonergan got the girl's phone number from another parishioner and started communicating with her.

"Many of those communications were sexual in nature and occurred via Snapchat, a social media application through which users can share photos and video. During some of the electronic communications, Lonergan sent nude images of himself to the victim," said Martin.

Lonergan was stationed at Catharine of Sienna, but came in contact with the girl in February of 2018 at Francis of Assisi church in Allentown.

Martin said that's when Lonergan allegedly got physical.

"It is alleged that the defendant Lonergan hugged the victim. While he was embracing her, she... attempted to pull away from him.  He continued to pull her towards him and then grabbed her buttocks over her clothes," Martin said. 

The Diocese of Allentown said the girl told a priest at Central Catholic High School in June and the alleged incident was reported to the Diocese.

A Diocese statement says Lonergan was immediately removed from his ministry position pending the outcome of the investigation.

"I also want to advise the public and the parishioners of the Diocese that Bishop Schlert wanted to act very quickly and transparently to report this and to inform the public of Lonergan's removal from active ministry, but he held off doing so at my request in order not to compromise our investigation," said Martin.

Lonergan was released from Lehigh County Jail Tuesday afternoon after bail was set at $50,000, unsecured.

Martin said he doesn't believe Lonergan is a flight risk as he lives with his parents in Pottsville.

If convicted, he could face up to nine years in prison.

69 News asked the Diocese about the job status of Lonergan. A spokesman says: "Only the Vatican can defrock and it is a process. At this point he has no assignment and is not permitted to present himself as a priest."

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