Catholic Priest

Dennis A. Rigney

Ordained: 1966
Diocese: Diocese of Allentown

From the Report I of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

On August 9, 1989, a former employee of Holy Family Manor wrote a letter to Bishop Welsh with a complaint against Rigney, who had pressured the employee to resign her positon as a nurse’s aide.   The employee continued by asserting that she refused to resign and was subsequently fired.  The employee stated, “Monsignor Rigney regards himself as a ladies man and he’s crazy about women,” and “if you don’t give him certain rights . . . i.e . . . to hug, grab, or kiss, he gets ‘even’ with you.” The employee said he got “even” with her because she wanted no part of his physical advances.  The Diocese later learned that this was not Rigney’s first incident and that the abusive conduct began much earlier.

On April 6, 1987, Father Thomas Kuhn of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati wrote a letter to Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati regarding a parishioner claiming she was “fondled in the area of the vagina “when she was about 12 or 13” by Rigney. Kuhn’s letter was forwarded to the Allentown Diocese.

On April 4, 1988, Rigney wrote a 23 page document to Welsh after allegations were made that Rigney “digitally stroked a female minor’s vagina.”   The letter denied any inappropriate touching or actions and painted both the victim and her family as highly dysfunctional and not credible, trying to convince the bishop of the same.  Rigney’s letter was in response to a letter sent to the Allentown Diocese from a relative of the victim.

On April 9, 2002, a woman telephoned the Chancery stating she had been touched inappropriately by a priest when she was about age nine or 10.  The touching occurred over a one-year period in 1966 1967.  Fifteen to twenty years later, the victim’s sister told her that she too was touched by the same priest. The victim identified the offending priest as Rigney. The victim stated that she and her sister attended St. Peter’s School in Reading and were members of St. Peter’s Church, where Rigney was stationed. The victim stated Rigney had a house “at the river,” where he took them water skiing at the “beach on the river.” According to the victim, Rigney digitally stroked her vagina and caressed the rest of her body, kissed her on the lips, and “petted” her on various parts of her body, including her breasts, buttocks, shoulder, neck, back, legs, stomach, and vagina.

On April 18, 2002, Rigney requested early retirement citing medical reasons.  On April 29, 2002, Rigney was granted early retirement by the Diocese, for medical reasons.   On July 31, 2003, Monsignor Schlert, the Vicar General, sent a letter to Monsignor Gobitas indicating that Rigney was apprehensive about attending a  “special retreat” he was encouraged to attend by the Diocese, because “he retired without Scandal, if he goes to the retreat with the other ‘known’ offenders, it will implicate him.”

Additional information regarding the widespread sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Dioceses of Pennsylvania and the systemic cover up by senior church officials is compiled in the Pennsylvania Diocese Victim’s Report published by the Pennsylvania Attorney General following a two-year grand jury investigation.  A complete copy of the Report is available on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website.