The fate of six priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed on administrative leave after the February 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report was announced today by the Archdiocese.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., decided on the cases after “a rigorous investigative process involving over 20 experts in child abuse,” a statement from the Archdiocese said July 6.
Of the six priests, four were determined to have unsubstantiated allegations against them, and they have been deemed suitable for ministry.
They include Fathers Paul Castellani, 53; Steven Harris, 57; and Leonard Peterson, 70. Their cases involved alleged violations of the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries, the archdiocesan behavioral guidelines for priests, deacons and all church workers and volunteers formulated in May 2003.
Msgr. John A. Close, 68, also was deemed suitable for ministry after an allegation against him of sexual abuse of a minor was found to be unsubstantiated.
It was unclear at this time whether they would return to their previous clerical assignments or in what ministries they might serve.
Two other priests, Fathers John Bowe, 64, and David Givey, 68, were found to have substantiated allegations of violations of the standards, and are unsuitable to return to ministry.
They will have no public ministry in the Archdiocese, according to the statement, but they may appeal the decision to the Holy See at the Vatican.
Announcements of the decisions were to be made at the most recent parish assignments for the priests at Masses this weekend, July 7-8.
In the statement Archbishop Chaput thanked the multidisciplinary team that investigated the allegations – after each was submitted to the local district attorney and cleared for the Church’s investigation — and the Archdiocesan Review Board, which made its recommendations on each case to the archbishop.
The members of both panels “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,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“I’m grateful for their tireless efforts. The experience of these doctors, police officers, former prosecutors, victims’ advocates and others in dealing with the broad societal problem of sexual abuse was crucial to our work.”
The statement said that since the multidisciplinary team began its work under the former archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, in early 2011 in the wake of the scathing grand jury report, it has located, gathered and reviewed more than 400,000 pages of relevant documents; identified, located and interviewed 227 witnesses across the United States and in several foreign countries; and conducted site visits to parishes and schools where incidents were alleged to have occurred.
Many cases involved a search for additional evidence including yearbooks, parish records, photographs and public documents. Some cases dated as long ago as 40 years.
The six cases announced today follow decisions on eight priests announced by Archbishop Chaput last May. They also were placed on administrative leave following the grand jury report, which has since led to the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn.
The former archdiocesan secretary for clergy was found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child on June 22 in Philadelphia, stemming from his actions to recommend priest assignments including those of priests accused of sexually assaulting minors.
Having been denied a bid for house arrest until his sentencing hearing scheduled for July 24, Msgr. Lynn remains in a county prison in protective custody.
Of the group of priests last May, three were found suitable for ministry and five were found unsuitable. In one additional case, a priest on administrative leave died before a full investigation could be conducted and a conclusion was not reached.
The process of making the final determination on the priests, including clearance by the district attorney, a thorough investigation, review by the Archdiocesan Review Board and the decision of the archbishop, was followed for both groups of priests, according to the archdiocesan statement.
It said the cases of 12 more priests still on leave remain unresolved. The statement said some cases have not yet been cleared by local district attorneys so the internal archdiocesan investigation has not begun, while others have been cleared and their investigations are ongoing.
In other cases the internal investigation is complete but “the matter is awaiting examination by the Archdiocesan Review Board or a final decision by Archbishop Chaput,” the statement said.
The Archdiocese did not speculate when the process would be complete.
Yet the wider effort to help parishioners in the Archdiocese come to grips with the reality of victims who suffered sexual abuse in the Church continues.
An archdiocesan initiative launched last May titled Honesty, Healing and Hope in Christ: Confronting Sexual Violence in Our Archdiocese aims to address the reactions, thoughts and feelings that people may experience at the time of the announcements and in the near future.
The program consists of four phases implemented over six months at the parish level.
It addresses the victims of the allegation or violation of the archdiocesan ministerial standards; the parishioners, who include families of the school and Parish Religious Education Program (PREP); and the priests on administrative leave.
Through the initiative, “the Archdiocese continues a journey of honesty, healing and hope toward the restoration of trust,” the statement said.
Read more background information at the Archdiocese’s web site, archphila.org.
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Robert, maybe if they sue the Archdiocese will then have to open the “secret files” and we, the Church, can see first hand the total miss-mangement of the archdioceses by our recent “leaders’ Krol, Bevalaquia and Rigalli. Monsignor Lynn took a hit for what many of the administration at “222” knew about and did nothing about — that is a “cover-up” of crime!
Robert, “suing the accusers”……sounds like a plan. One of the difficulties just might be the accused priest’s need to rely on the archdiocesan investigation of the accusation filed by the victim alleging sexual abuse. Since the results and findings of the investigations are not publicly available, only archdiocesan management and possibly the accused priest have direct knowledge of the details, facts, evidence, etc. of these internal investigations.
I believe that the leadership of the Catholic Church, whether it be in this diocese or any other throughout the US, would proceed with such legal action IF they believed they had a strong, convincing and winnable case. What better way to further intimidate the victims, including those who are contemplating coming forward.
Bottom line, since it has not happened yet, i.e., the filing of civil action VS the victims for false accusations, it may just be the case that these sexual abuse allegations are reasonable and legitimately filed and pursued. There is no way that Church management would pass up such an opportunity with their legal resources if they knew it would be successful and effective.
I, for one, believe the victims.
Robert, I believe the Archdiocese did not call the allegations “false’, they called them unsubstantiated.The United States Catholic Bishop’s conference has stated that only 2 -3 % of allegations have been false (nationwide). I agree that if someone “falsely’ accuses a person they should be held liable, however unsubstantiated does not mean false.
The acquitted clergy can’t get their reputations back. However, they can sue their acussers. This is the ultimate restraint on false acusations; namely, you could be sued for everything you are worth if you raise a false acusation against anyone.
Based on comments our Pastor made at every Mass and on the information from the Archdioceses headquarters (222) that was distributed at Mass today and last Sunday, I am under the impression that Archbishop Chaput is taking steps to address much of the problem but a key step he must take, in my opinion, is to clean out the “good old boy network” at 222 that allowed the “cover up.” Monsignoir Lynn was not the only person involved at “222” many others knew what was going on and took no action therefore they condoned the “cover-up.” This is not going to be easy for Archbishop Chaput but if he “cleans house” I think that will put the Archdioceses on the correct road to living Christ teachings.
To what office do the children and parents of the parishes of the removed priests apply to retrieve their feeling of safety, after being exposed to men who posed a danger to our most treasured possession,our children.
To what office do the victims of sexual abuse, enabled by moral cowards, get their souls back?
These “matters” only became public because the GJR 1 and 2 disclosed the inability of the archdiocese to properly receive, manage, investigate and take action on reports, information, facts, evidence, etc. of allegations of sexual abuse by certain clergy.
IF, IF the archdiocesan leadership over these many years had been properly investigating, resolving and taking action with respect to the serious reports of the abuse of archdiocesan children, then possibly these matters would not now have to be scrutinized, publicized and reviewed in public forums, far and wide.
Blame, responsibility for the negative publicity and impactg on the reputation of specific clergy?????……certainly NOT the victims’.
Stated much better than my attempt. You’re absolutely right, Michael.
I’ve been living in Baton Rouge, LA for the past year and still catching up on lots of news up north.
The clergy here in Louisiana have had their problems but no where near as Philly.
Usually the parents, uncles, cousins and close friends of the victims first take matters into their own hands, then the police take over at the hospital, then the priest is out the door.
I only wish I kept the original 48’s involving priest abuse up in the 8th District (plus one from the 23rd). The original 48’s were detailed writing then JAD was immediately notified (by me).
By the next day, those 48’s were rewritten as investigation of person and I never heard anything again about the incidents.
Thank Goodness for the Grand Juries. I did see a few priests that died in the early 80’s that were never mentioned. When I inquired, I was told they were ‘order’ priests and therefore did not come under the investigative process of the Archdiocese.
To what office do the acquitted clergy apply to retrieve their reputations?
As Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan famously said after being acquitted, what office do I go to retrieve my reputation?