Two Accused Priests Served as School Principals

COAL TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Roman Catholics are reacting one day after the Diocese of Harrisburg named priests and others, both living and dead, accused of sex abuse.

Some of those priests and church officials served at churches in our area.

School administrators at Our Lady of Lourdes tell us they found out about the accusations Wednesday when they looked up the names online.

People may remember Fr. Ronald Haney and Fr. Philip Dechico as past principals at Our Lady of Lourdes near Shamokin. Those men are now being noted for another reason -- when the Diocese of Harrisburg released a list of accused sex abusers in the church that stretches back to the 1940s.

Fr. Haney and Fr. Dechico were on it

Sister Mary Anne Bednar sat down with Newswatch 16. This will be her first year as principal at Our Lady of Lourdes.

"I had no idea until yesterday that either of these two men were on the list," Sister Mary Anne said.

The accusations are a surprise to Sister Bednar who says she was a student at Lourdes in the 1970s when Fr. Haney was principal.

"What I remember the most was that he was cutting edge with education," Sister said. "I was shocked because that just I would have never thought that of Father."

We found a few Our Lady of Lourdes graduates in downtown Shamokin. Although no one wanted to speak with us on camera, one woman tells us

she was a student when Fr. Dechico was principal between 1979 and 1986. That woman says Fr. Dechico made her feel uncomfortable but did not give details about why.

Both Fr. Dechico and Fr. Haney have passed away.

With a new year of school around the corner, Sister Bednar says new procedures have been put in place to protect children.

"They are making every effort to make sure our schools, our parishes are safe places for our young people," she said.

Sister Bednar says parents and faculty will be receiving letters from the bishop soon detailing what happened at a news conference this week.

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