Hundreds of Roman Catholic priests met Wednesday with their archbishop in suburban Philadelphia, but it's not clear if they learned the fate of 23 colleagues suspended over child sex-abuse accusations.
The region's 1.5 million Catholics await word on parish priests suspended after a second grand jury report last year again accused the archdiocese of leaving suspected predators in ministry. A former church official is now on trial for allegedly doing just that.
The archdiocese offered no immediate comment on the hastily called meeting Wednesday with Archbishop Charles Chaput, but scheduled a news conference for Friday. A gag order in the criminal trial has largely prevented the archdiocese from commenting this year on sex-abuse allegations.
But Chaput has said he hoped to resolve the fate of the suspended priests this spring.
The clergymen were suspended after a February 2011 grand jury report alleged that accused priests were still active in Philadelphia, despite a zero-tolerance policy adopted by U.S. bishops in 2002.
Victim advocates are eager to learn not just the outcome of their cases, but details of the investigative process. Documents in the criminal trial show that the archdiocese, for many years, did not judge an accusation credible unless the priest admitted it.
“It's not just who's up and who's down, but how transparent they were, what they investigated,” said Terry McKiernan, the founder of BishopAccountability.org, a website that tracks priest abuse in the Catholic church.
Chaput held the meeting at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, while Monsignor William Lynn stood trial downtown. Lynn, 61, is accused of endangering children by helping hide priest-abuse complaints in secret, locked archives when he served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004.
Chaput came to Philadelphia in September, after the priests were suspended and the internal investigations were under way, led by a former child sex-crimes prosecutor. The suspended priests have been “in limbo” for more than a year.
“It's not good for anybody to be left hanging, Chaput told The Associated Press last year. “It's not good for the victim, it's not good for the families of the victim, it's not good for the priests or the parishes that they serve.”