To the Philadelphia Catholic community:
Every once in awhile a story circulates in the press that requires a response. That is my purpose here.
Many of you may have seen the article in the November 12 Philadelphia Inquirer focusing on Stephen Szutenbach, a former Denver seminarian, and his adult sexual encounters with Kent Drotar. Father Drotar was vice rector of Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary for a time during my tenure as Archbishop of Denver. If you haven’t read the Inquirer story, I encourage you to do so:
I mention this because Denver archdiocesan conduct and safety policies were followed at all times in this painful matter, and the Inquirer article is seriously flawed in at least two of its key elements. The truth is that:
* Father Kent Drotar was removed from ministry on the counsel of the Archdiocese of Denver’s review board — not because of anyone’s threat, at any time, to go to the press.
* No staff person’s contract was terminated or not renewed because of the Szutenbach/Drotar incident. At no point was “retaliation” involved against any person.
Please note that the Szutenbach/Drotar issue is more than a decade old and involved adult misconduct. This in no way excuses or reduces its ugliness, but neither does it imply a systemic lack of vigilance on the part of Church leadership, or a disregard for the safety of minors and their families. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not truthful. Kent Drotar has never had an allegation before or since this matter. I removed him from Denver’s seminary immediately upon learning of the issue from the seminary rector. Father Drotar was then seen by multiple mental health professionals. They determined he was not a threat and could return to ministry.
Mr. Szutenbach was represented by a civil attorney, but no civil or criminal action has ever been taken. After Mr. Szutenbach appeared before the Denver review board, they considered, discussed and ultimately recommended Father Drotar’s removal. I removed Kent Drotar permanently from ministry the same day.
The Inquirer story also makes a reference to an investigative matter involving our seminary here in Philadelphia. Bishop Timothy Senior, rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, issued a letter regarding that matter and explaining our seminary policies. A copy can be found here, as it’s well worth reading.
I leave it to you to consider the timing behind the appearance of yesterday’s Inquirer article.
I’m very grateful for your on-going support in this difficult time for the Church.
Fraternally yours in Jesus Christ,
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
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