2 Phila. priests removed amid abuse inquiry
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PHILADELPHIA -- Two additional priests will be permanently barred from ministry after the Philadelphia archdiocese substantiated allegations against them involving inappropriate conduct with children, church officials said Friday.
The priests violated standards of "behavior" or "boundaries" but were not accused of sexual assaults, Archbishop Charles Chaput said. Four other suspended priests will return to ministry because the church deemed allegations against them were not credible, while another 12 cases remain under review, he said.
"In making these decisions I relied on the counsel of numerous experts," the archbishop wrote in a statement. "They come from various professional disciplines and have dedicated their lives to child protection, to the investigation of sexual offenders and to support for victims of sexual violence."
The announcement was the second one from the archdiocese's ongoing review of clergy sex abuse allegations. In May, five priests were banned from ministry and three were restored to ministry, while another priest died during the investigation and no determination was made in his case.
It also comes exactly two weeks after former top archdiocesan aide Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of felony child-endangerment for his handling of abuse complaints as the secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. He faces 31/2 to seven years in prison when he is sentenced later this month.
The priests whose fates were announced Friday, none of whom have been criminally charged, could not be reached for comment.
About two dozen priests were suspended in 2011 after a second grand jury blasted the archdiocese for keeping suspected predator priests in ministry. Another grand jury had raised the same concerns six years earlier.
Clergy removed from ministry can agree to serve what the archdiocese calls a "life of prayer and penance" in a church-run facility where they can be monitored. Some may agree to leave the priesthood and others may be defrocked after a church trial. They can also appeal the decision.
Priests cleared of the accusations may return to their parish or move to a new assignment.
Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, decried the pace of the archdiocese's announcements.
"Decisions about possible predator priests should be announced as soon as they are made, not held in secrecy for months or weeks until the archbishop and his public relations staffers deem it's most advantageous to disclose them," she said. "Chaput continues to act recklessly and selfishly."
Prosecutors unearthed hundreds of complaints from secret church files for a 2005 grand jury report that blasted the church for ignoring or dismissing sex abuse complaints made over many decades against 63 Philadelphia priests, many who were still in ministry at the time. The report said the cases were too old to prosecute, however, and no one was charged.
The second grand jury report in 2011 said dozens of suspected abusers remained on duty, many on assignments that put them in contact with children. Prosecutors subsequently charged three priests and a teacher with more recent sexual assaults also brought a first-of-its-kind case against Monsignor Lynn, arguing that he endangered children by keeping pedophile priests on the job.
First Published July 7, 2012 12:00 am