Sexual Abuse of a Minor; Lawsuit Filed Against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, PA

Adult holding child's hand over bible

Mark M. Beaky has come forward with his story of childhood sexual abuse by Lawrence “Larry” Howard Haftle, his teacher at St. Theresa’s Catholic School. He and his lawyer, Richard M. Serbin filed an official complaint on July 1, 2020 which implicates the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, who knew of the rampant abuse of children by clergy members, but deliberately kept secret or otherwise protected abusers. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown has been involved in a number of other cases of childhood sexual abuse and was named in the historic Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in 2018.

The Alleged Abuse

Haftle was Beaky’s homeroom teacher in 1974, when he was only 13 years old. Haftle began grooming the young boy, befriending him and spending time with him before and after class. Haftle was known as the “cool” teacher, dressing fashionably, having long hair, and employing liberal teaching methods in an otherwise strict and overbearing Catholic school.

Soon, Haftle began inviting Beaky out for car rides during lunch recess. During many of these rides he would give the underaged boy alcohol and marijuana, and allowed him to skip afternoon classes when he became intoxicated. 

The sexual abuse began on a weekend trip to a farm Haftle owned. There was a party at the farm, and other high school students were present. In addition to alcohol, marijuana, opium, methamphetamines, and other drugs were in abundance and offered to Beaky and his peers.

Once Beaky was intoxicated, Haftle invited him to his bedroom where he undressed and proceeded to inappropriately touch the minor’s genitals. The intoxicated boy went in and out of consciousness before finally falling asleep. For the rest of the weekend, Haftle continued to give illicit drugs and alcohol to Beaky, causing memory lapses.

The abuse did not end after that weekend. It continued throughout the winter school year and into spring, stopping only when Haftle was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned on drug charges. It is believed that Haftle died in 2010.

It is well known that survivors of childhood sexual abuse often suffer the effects of trauma for the rest of their life,” said Richard M. Serbin, the attorney representing Beaky’s case. “[My client] has suffered from lack of self-esteem and drug addiction, which have led him to homelessness and imprisonment. He has suffered every day since the abuse began, and he continues to suffer today.

Diocese of Allentown Implicated in Grand Jury Report

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown is identified in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church released on August 14, 2018. The report found that “Pennsylvania Dioceses routinely hid reports of child sex abuse crimes while the statute of limitations for those crimes expired.” (Report, pg. 307). The grand jury uncovered evidence of sexual abuse of minors committed by dozens of priests including priests in the Diocese of Allentown.

This means that the diocese knew of child predators, like Haftle, in their institution and yet they chose to conceal the abuse to preserve the image of the church. This action allowed the continued abuse of children, and it is for this reason that they are implicated in the complaint.

About Richard M. Serbin

Richard M. Serbin has more than 33 years of experience suing the Catholic Church and other religious denominations on behalf of child sexual abuse survivors. He is recognized as a trailblazer in the area of child sexual abuse by clergy, winning the only jury verdict in Pennsylvania against a bishop, Catholic diocese, and predatory priest. He has represented more than 400 abuse survivors across the U.S. He now heads the Sexual Abuse Division of Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC (JJS).

About Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC

The Sexual Abuse Division of Janet, Janet & Suggs has represented thousands of men and women across the nation who were abused as children by trusted authority figures such as clergy members, priests, doctors, and coaches.

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