Archdiocese of Philadelphia and former priest named in lawsuit alleging cover-up of rape

mcgoldrick Kevin McGoldrick is a former priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. | YouTube/Kevin McGoldrick

A woman is suing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for covering up the “mass sexual abuse” of a priest who she says later sexually abused her while she was studying at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2017.

The now-former priest, Kevin McGoldrick, has since sought voluntary laicization after being investigated and disciplined by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The complaint, which was filed April 18, also accuses him of assault and battery. He was working as a chaplain on the campus of Aquinas College at the time the alleged abuse occurred in 2017. 

Ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2003, McGoldrick served at several parishes and one high school in the Philadelphia area until 2013 when he left the archdiocese to work at Nashville’s Aquinas College, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. 

Those parishes included the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Port Richmond; St. Timothy in Northeast Philadelphia; Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Monica, both in South Philadelphia; and Holy Name of Jesus in Fishtown. He also served at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The plaintiff in the case, who is seeking more than $50,000 from both McGoldrick and the archdiocese, is a woman identified under the pseudonym Jane Doe. She said in the complaint that she was a junior at Aquinas College when McGoldrick, her then-spiritual director, sexually assaulted her.

The complaint alleges that the archdiocese lied to Doe after she inquired as to whether McGoldrick had ever sexually abused another victim. After the archdiocese repeatedly denied that McGoldrick had sexually abused other victims, the complaint says, Doe read in an online article that he had sexually abused two other women. 

This “compounded the trauma of the initial abuse,” the complaint says. 

The complaint also asserts that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia knew McGoldrick was a danger before it approved his transfer to the Diocese of Nashville on the campus of Aquinas College, where he held different roles at both the college and a neighboring grade school and a high school — all run by Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

He was not incardinated into the Nashville Diocese but was given faculties to perform sacramental duties, the Tennessee Register reported.

According to the Tennessee Register, McGoldrick had his faculties removed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia following the investigation of allegations contained in Doe’s 2019 report from her time at Aquinas College.

Doe, who is now 28 according to the Patch, was sexually assaulted in the summer of 2017, the complaint says.

The alleged assault

The assault took place in the summer of 2017 when Doe and another female student had dinner and alcoholic beverages at McGoldrick’s residence, a rectory, according to the complaint. The other female student left the rectory around 8 p.m., but Doe stayed. 

McGoldrick, who the complaint says often socialized with female college students (occasions that frequently involved alcohol) then allegedly offered Doe another alcoholic drink, as part of a “bourbon flight.” 

McGoldrick, who the complaint says “openly flouted the requirement of priestly celibacy,” told Doe, 22 at the time, how “lonely the priesthood was” and how he “longed to be known and loved.” 

The chaplain, an aspiring musician, then “insisted on singing songs he had written, describing his need for human connection beyond that which he was allowed to have as a priest,” the complaint says.

Before Doe could finish her drink, McGoldrick would “continuously” refill it, according to the complaint. Doe then vomited outside because she was drunk, it says.

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Around midnight, McGodrick then poured her another glass of bourbon and suggested they watch a movie. They sat on opposite sides of the couch. The complaint says that Doe wanted to leave and felt “extremely uncomfortable” but didn’t know what to do.

The complaint says that McGoldrick began touching Doe’s feet and legs saying that he “had a thing for feet.” He then began touching her breasts under her shirt, the complaint says. Then he laid on top of her and began kissing her neck, according to the complaint. 

“Over the next few hours, Plaintiff lost consciousness and cannot recall what may have happened while unconscious.” The sexual assault “continued and escalated,” the complaint says.

According to her first-person account of the assault published in the Catholic Herald in July 2020, Doe — identified by the pseudonym Susanna — said “Every time I woke up I hoped I was in a nightmare and the chaplain of my college wasn’t on top of me.”

According to the complaint, Doe left around 4 a.m. “after regaining consciousness.” She experienced suicidal urges and felt guilty, feelings which lasted for years, the complaint says. 

The following day, McGoldrick invited Doe to the rectory and apologized, citing Doe’s attractiveness as the explanation for his actions, the complaint says. He said his life was “just so hard” and asked her not to tell anyone about what happened, the complaint says. 

Doe told him that she “wanted no part in what had happened” and added that it can never happen again, the complaint says. She said that she did not want to be alone with him nor have physical contact with him ever, the complaint says. 

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Doe tried to avoid McGoldrick but saw him again when he asked her to retrieve a liquor bottle she left at the rectory, the complaint says. For fear of McGoldrick and bringing herself more harm, she went. McGoldrick offered her a sweatshirt after noticing that she had goosebumps. 

They had more glasses of bourbon and McGoldrick discussed BDSM, or bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism, the complaint says. 

She tried to leave, but McGoldrick “put his hands on Plaintiff’s hips, removed the sweatshirt he had her wear, hugged her, and rubbed his groin against her,” the complaint says. 

“Terrified, Plaintiff left quickly,” the complaint says.

Later that year McGoldrick was transferred to a neighboring grade school and a high school on the Aquinas College’s campus, also run by the sisters.

In 2019, Doe reported the abuse to both the Diocese of Nashville and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the complaint says. The report was the second time Doe had made a complaint to the Diocese of Nashville about the incident, according to the Tennessee Register, the Diocese of Nashville’s newspaper. Doe had reported the incident earlier in 2019 without mentioning “touching of a sexual nature,” according to the paper.

In 2020, Doe’s lawyer approached the Diocese of Nashville “investigating the possibility of filing a lawsuit,” according to the Tennessee Register. The diocese settled for $65,000, according to the outlet. 

The settlement “was primarily intended to help cover counseling and related expenses, and her attorney costs, enabling her to move on with her new career opportunity,” the Tennessee Register reported.

The alleged cover-up

The complaint alleges that McGoldrick had sexually abused two other females in Philadelphia and that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was aware of these incidents. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia denied that there had been other alleged victims when Doe inquired, the complaint says.

One of the accusations concerns a woman identified by the initials M.W. who allegedly was raped by McGoldrick in 2007 and sexually abused by him for years. The other accusation alleges that McGoldrick groomed, sexually harassed, and abused “his business manager,” identified as Victim No. 2, in 2012. According to his work history, McGoldrick would have been working in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia during both of the alleged incidents.

Both of those assaults were reported to and investigated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the complaint says.

The complaint alleges that the archdiocese “concealed its knowledge of McGoldrick’s unfitness from the Diocese of Nashville and others.”

It also says that the archdiocese “concealed its knowledge” of the abuse of M.W. and Victim No. 2 despite Doe’s “diligent efforts” to learn about McGoldrick’s history of abuse.

“The callous indifference manifested by Defendant Archdiocese of Philadelphia to the safety and well-being of young females left in the care and custody of the Archdiocese was a function of their paramount desire to protect the Church, even at the expense of innocent young persons, who were ravaged, molested, and abused by agents, servants, and/or employees of the Archdiocese,” the complaint says.

Kenneth A. Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told CNA April 24 that McGoldrick is a “former priest.” Gavin added that he could not comment on pending litigation when asked for comment. 

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