Father John Paul announced his resignation as pastor of Our Lady of Calvary Parish in Philadelphia Sunday, Nov. 10, citing in the church bulletin a decline in his “physical and spiritual health” as a result of allegations of past misconduct.
Father Paul, 67 and ordained in 1972, had been pastor of the Northeast Philadelphia parish since 2000.
He had been the subject of allegations made against him early this year accusing him of sexually abusing minors more than 40 years ago when he was a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, according to a statement by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Although Father Paul denied the allegations, as a matter of archdiocesan policy they were reported to law enforcement. After review the Philadelphia district attorney declined to press charges. The archdiocese then began its own investigation that has not concluded.
Father Paul remained in ministry at the parish since that time in a restricted capacity “in that he had no unsupervised contact with minors,” the archdiocesan statement read. “Appropriate notification of his restrictions was made to pertinent parties and a monitoring and support plan was implemented and followed.”
The priest’s case was considered by the Archdiocesan Review Board, the vicar for clergy, the archdiocesan director of investigations, the director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection and Archbishop Charles Chaput.
In his letter in the parish bulletin, Father Paul said his resignation was best for himself and the parish.
“Basically, I am tired and exhausted and I need renewal for myself. I have been pastor for 13 years and I feel proud of our parish – the school, the renovations, the new ministries – much has been accomplished. Our Lady of Calvary Parish is in need of new leadership … with new vision and enthusiasm.”
Archbishop Chaput has appointed Father John F. Babowitch, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Southwest Philadelphia, as Our Lady of Calvary’s new pastor beginning Dec. 2.
Father Paul indicated no immediate plans but said he intended to rest and pray. Pending archdiocesan approval, he said he wished to “take a sabbatical for prayer, study and service as allowed.”
He hoped to study the spirituality of Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Merton, take a retreat to Assisi, Italy, and work in a mission in Malawi, Africa.
Leaders of Our Lady of Calvary School posted a letter on the school’s website that said the allegations of sexual abuse “involved no member of OLC either 45 years ago or since,” said Holy Family Sister Mildred Chesnavage, principal, and Jeanne Costello, vice principal.
They cited “the extreme emotional duress experienced by Father Paul while the allegations were being investigated” as reasons for his resignation.
Father Paul’s message expressed his thanks for “my fellow priests, our secretaries and maintenance staff, our school administrators and teachers for their loyalty and support. Please pray for me as I will pray for you.”
The archdiocese said that “in the interest of transparency” it shared information about Father Paul’s resignation with parishioners at weekend Masses and provided counselors for anyone who wished to express their thoughts.
The statement reiterated that “the safety and well-being of our children and young people is of the utmost concern to the Archdiocese.”
As in past cases, the archdiocese stresses that anyone wishing to make a report of any allegation of sexual abuse should contact a local law enforcement agency and/or the archdiocesan Office of Investigations at 1-888-930-9010. Those wishing to report a violation of the archdiocesan “Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries” may also contact the archdiocesan Office of Investigations.
The archdiocese offers support to victims of sexual violence through the Victim Assistance Office of the archdiocese at 1-888-800-8780.