ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- A Roman Catholic priest from Pottsville serving in the Diocese of Allentown is facing sex assault and corruption of minors charges, according to the Lehigh County district attorney.
Fr. Kevin Lonergan, 30, of Pottsville, has been charged with corruption of minors and indecent assault. He is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl.
The Lehigh County district attorney announced that charges were filed against Lonergan, who lives at a home on South 25th Street in Pottsville with his parents.
No one answered the door at their home. Neighbors were saddened to hear of his arrest.
“He seems like a fine gentleman,” said Peggy Jaeger. “He always addresses us 'Mr. Jaeger,' 'Mrs. Jaeger.' I can't say anything unkind about him.”
“They're great people. It's an unfortunate situation,” said Patrick Murphy. “Not only are they great people, they're great neighbors. They're just great for the community. I mean it's an unfortunate situation.”
Authorities in Lehigh County say Lonergan met the girl while working as a priest in August of last year at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown. Then, between December and January, Lonergan sent sexual cell phone messages to her, including a nude picture of himself.
Then in February while at St. Francis, investigators say Lonergan hugged the victim and she reportedly could feel he was aroused. When she tried to pull away, he grabbed her buttocks.
According to the Diocese of Allentown, Fr. Lonergan's father, Lawrence Lonergan, is a deacon assigned to St. John the Baptist Church in Pottsville as well St. Patrick's Church, also in Pottsville.
No one was at either church to speak of his son's arrest.
And while the district attorney says Lonergan's arrest is not connected to the grand jury report on predator priests, neighbors say it brings it all back up hearing about another accusation against clergy.
“I can't believe all the nonsense that went on with the priests, and the bishops and the monsignors hid everything,” said Jaeger.
The district attorney says the Bishop of Allentown wanted to come forward with this allegation as soon as the diocese learned in June.
Lonergan was removed from public ministry then, but the district attorney asked the bishop to wait for the investigation.
Lonergan was arraigned in Lehigh County Tuesday afternoon and is free on $50,000 unsecured bail.