BREAKING: Philadelphia suspends 21 priests

BREAKING: Philadelphia suspends 21 priests March 8, 2011

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the rest, three were already placed on administrative leave, and five others would have been subject to leave but were no longer active.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.

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7 responses to “BREAKING: Philadelphia suspends 21 priests”

  1. Very sad, and likely very necessary as well.

    What’s ironic is that Card. Rigali finally took action because, apparently, he came to believe it was essential that he do so. Yet, if the church had its way and managed to get all these lawsuits dismissed, likely Card. Rigali would have let predator priests continue to work in parishes, amongst children. Whether the hierarchy wants to admit or not, the lawsuits are leading to some long overdue cleansing and purging. Contrary to what Bishop Thomas John Paprocki (of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois) once stated during a homily, these lawsuits are not the work of the devil. Far from it. The abuse and the cover-ups were the evil actions, not the all too necessary lawsuits.

  2. There are so many things that could be said about this. I weep for the victims of the abuse and the negative psychological impact this behavior has had on them and their families. I also am saddened by the fact that a Church who can so often be a prophetic witness to what is good and holy continues to lose her credibility because of the actions of men who served in leadership positions. I know there are many good men in the priesthood, I have a number of them as friends, but the ones who fail seem to be the louder voice in the public square.

  3. It took this long? Didn’t the sexual abuse scandal break in 2003 in the US?
    Our Bishops should RESIGN in shame that they let this continue for a minute longer than the very instant they were notified that a minor had been victimized by anyone in the Church.
    Book them, prosecute them, throw their evil, child-abusing and wicked bodies in jail forever. Let God deal with the state of their souls. The Bishops should be in the business of PROTECTING children.
    How can we lay ministers (or even the people of GOD) trust our Bishops when this kind of ‘Johnny come lately’ stuff happens? Oh, we might get caught, so we will suspend them now…??? What???

  4. God have mercy. I pray for the abused and for the abusers. I have the hardest time however praying for Cardinal Rigali and the institutionalized church at large.

    What were they thinking? A number of years ago, I can see… but this has gone on this long and took this to unfold?

    Unconscionable. Completely.

  5. During my 25-year tenure as a juvenile court judge, I would all too frequently have the sad duty of looking parents in the eye and pronouncing, “Mr. and Mrs. Jones, I find by clear and convincing evidence of serious child abuse that you are not fit for the care, custody and control of your children. Your parental rights are hereby terminated.” To announce a metaphorical death sentence on a family, even a seriously dysfunctional one, was not a pleasant task. Yet, at times, it had to be done!

    Let us also pray that many of our bishops find the moral courage to confront ordained child abusers and remove them from ministry. After all, a pastor—a shepherd—has the duty to protect the flock from predators, but not to enable them by reassignment.

  6. I am from Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and the city of this heartbreaking news. I am determined to pray more for priests this Lent, offer up all possible sacrifices for them, give more in alms to the poor, go to Adoration more frequently, and consider our Crucified Lord on the cross more often. I will pray for all victims of abuse too. Oh, how we are suffering with the daily news pronouncements!

  7. Holy Cow! 21 priests?–but what is sad is that it took SOOO long to do this–and there are probably more, hiding behind some Bishop’s robes somewhere. This is just dragging on and on and on. WHY???

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