From the New York Times:
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Tuesday that it had placed 21 priests on administrative leave from active ministry in connection with credible charges that they had sexually abused minors.
The mass suspension was one of the single most sweeping in the history of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. It follows a damning grand jury report issued Feb. 10 that accused the archdiocese of a widespread cover-up of predatory priests stretching over decades and that said as many as 37 priests remained active in the ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse against them.
The church apparently found no credible charges against eight of the priests. As for the rest, three were already placed on administrative leave, and five others would have been subject to leave but were no longer active. Two of those five no longer serve in the archdiocese but are members of a religious order; the archdiocese said it had notified the superiors of the religious order as well as the bishops of the diocese in which they live.
Church officials, including Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, have spent the last few days informing the priests of their status after an initial review of their cases by Gina Smith, an outside lawyer hired by the church to re-examine their cases in light of the grand jury report.
The cardinal said the suspensions were interim measures, pending fuller investigations of their cases.
He also apologized for the behavior of abusive priests.
“As we strive to move forward today,” Cardinal Rigali added, “I wish to express again my sorrow for the sexual abuse of minors committed by any members of the church, especially clergy.”
“I am truly sorry for the harm done to the victims of sexual abuse, as well as to the members of our community who suffer as a result of this great evil and crime,” he said.
Stay tuned. I suspect more details will emerge soon enough.
The Archdiocese’s statement on this can be read here.
Meantime, those who are curious can read the February grand jury report here. It is, in a word, horrifying.
Please keep Philadelphia in your prayers …
UPDATE: Some early (anonymous) reaction from one bishop can be found over at Rocco’s place.