Bishop Rhoades named in lawsuit alleging sex abuse cover-up

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A lawsuit filed in a Pennsylvania court alleges the Diocese of Harrisburg and two bishops were involved in conspiracy, fraud and constructive fraud to cover up child sexual abuse by clergy.

The civil lawsuit is based on an alleged cover-up by the Harrisburg diocese and bishops Ronald Gainer and current Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese bishop Kevin Rhoades.

WANE 15 obtained a copy of the lawsuit. It was filed by now 67-year-old Donald Asbee.

In it, Asbee says he was sexually assaulted and raped by two priests at the diocese, Father Raymond Daugherty and Father Walter Sempko, over the course of four years, beginning when he was 9 years old.

Both priests have since passed.

“I am on a mission to speak out to anyone who will listen that this cycle must end,” Asbee told our sister station WHTM in Harrisburg, PA.

Kevin Rhoades is the bishop for the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, but led the Roman Catholic Diocese in Harrisburg from 2004 to 2010, so the alleged abuse occurred decades before he was there.

He is named in the suit as one of only two living former Harrisburg Diocese bishops, including Ronald Gainer who currently heads the diocese.

Asbee’s lawyer, Richard Serbin, says his client suffered embarrassment, humiliation, and shame and spent thousands of dollars on counseling and psychological care.

According to the lawsuit, Asbee seeks damages that will “sufficiently punish the Defendants herein and deter others who conspire to act with reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of their fiduciaries. Plaintiff seeks damages in an amount in excess of the jurisdictional limits requiring arbitration, plus interest as allowed by law and costs.”

Asbee tells WHMT he was offered $176,875 under the Harrisburg diocese’s compensation fund, but opted for this lawsuit instead.

The Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese issued the following statement:

Bishop Rhoades was saddened to learn of the horrific acts of child sexual abuse that Mr. Asbee alleges occurred within the Diocese of Harrisburg. Bishop Rhoades was himself less than 10 years old when these incidents purportedly occurred. He is confident the litigation process will show that he did nothing wrong. In all instances where he was aware of a credibly accused priest, Bishop Rhoades has promptly notified authorities and removed the individual from public ministry. He stands by his record as a Bishop – both in Pennsylvania and Indiana – of protecting victims of child sexual abuse.”

Jennifer Simerman, Secretariat Director of Communications

Bishop Rhoades has come under fire for alleged misconduct in the past.

In September of 2018, Bishop Rhoades was cleared of any wrongdoing a week after an allegation of misconduct against him out of Pennsylvania surfaced.

The Dauphin County (Pennsylvania) District Attorney’s Office said then that it found “no basis to conclude that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ever engaged in a criminal or otherwise improper relationship with a person whom we will refer to as J.T. to protect the privacy of his family.” The office said it found no witnesses reported any criminal or improper conduct by Rhoades, who “fully cooperated” in the investigation. 

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