Five Catholic priests accused of child sex abuse will not be able to return to their jobs. They were deemed unsuitable for ministry.
The five are among 26 priests investigated for abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Archbishop Charles Chaput announced today that decisions on eight priests had been made, one priest has died since the investigation began, three priest were found "suitable for ministry" and that decisions on 17 more cases are in different stages of investigation but that more decisions would be announced in the coming weeks.
The five priests found "unsuitable" to return to ministry are:
- Reverend Robert Povish
- Reverend John Reardon
- Reverend Thomas Rooney
- Reverend Monsignor Francis Feret
- Reverend George Cadwallader
The three priests found "suitable" to return to ministry are:
- Reverend Philip Barr
- Reverend Michael Chapman
- Monsignor Michael Flood
During today's announcement, Chaput emphasized that child sex abuse is a "broad, societal problem" and apologized to the victims on behalf of the Catholic church. He said no lesson is more important than the understanding that the people who suffer most are the victims.
"Over the years, as part of my ministry as a Bishop, I have met personally with many victims and this humbling experience has taught me that no words can sufficiently describe the hurt a victim feels."
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent out a statement saying they're shocked that more than a year after a grand jury raised concerns about 37 accused priests, only eight of the cases are resolved.
Chaput said the five priests who will not be retained do have the right to appeal their decisions to The Vatican.
Of the remaining 17 cases, Chaput said:
- 6 have not been cleared by law enforcement so the church hasn't been able to do their own investigation.
- 2 are under internal investigation.
- 9 are complete and awaiting review by either the Archbishop or Archdiocesan review board. Announcements on these nine are expected in the coming weeks.
In their statement, SNAP said people should be wary of the Church's internal investigation:
"Parishioners and the public should continue to be highly skeptical of the secretive internal church processes and redouble their efforts to get victims and witnesses to contact police and prosecutors."
Chaput said he would not be able to provide any details of the cases that have been decided. "I need to balance the need for transparency with the pain already felt by victims -- pain which we acknowledge, and do not wish to compound. It's important for victims themselves to control to whom, when and how extensively they disclose their accounts and we support whatever decision that may be."
The announcements came during the criminal trial of Monsignor William J. Lynn, a former top aide at the archdiocese. He is charged with child endangerment for his handling of abuse complaints from 1992 to 2004, mostly under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
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A 2005 grand jury report blasted the church for ignoring or dismissing sex abuse complaints made against 63 priests in the archdiocese over many decades. A 2011 report said the archdiocese was continuing to downplay complaints or focus on minor discrepancies to find them not credible. The archdiocese responded by suspending the priests and hiring a former child sex crimes prosecutor to re-examine complaints involving active priests. A year ago, the criticism came from within when the head of the archdiocese's lay panel on priest sex-abuse blasted then-Cardinal Justin Rigali's response to the pedophilia crisis, saying he and his bishops "failed miserably at being open and transparent.''
Chaput said information on the cases is listed on the Archdiocese's website and will be available in all parishes this weekend.