Continuing the Philadelphia archdiocese's response to a grand jury report on sex abuse or misconduct by clergy, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on Dec. 15 declared five priests unsuitable for ministry, including one who faced a substantiated allegation of abuse committed 30 years ago.
“Priests on administrative leave are not permitted to exercise their public ministry, administer any of the sacraments, wear clerical attire, or present themselves publicly as priests,” the archdiocese said Dec. 15.
“Those priests found unsuitable for ministry will have no public ministry in the archdiocese.”
The priests may appeal the decision to the Vatican. Priests facing a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor could be laicized or ordered to live a life of prayer and penance.
Archbishop Chaput's latest decisions concerned seven priests. Of these, another four priests are unsuitable for ministry because of violations of “The Standards of Ministerial Behaviors and Boundaries.”
Father Michael A. Chapman was the priest declared unsuitable for ministry for abuse of a minor.
An archdiocesan review board had cleared him of a prior abuse allegation in May 2012. A new accuser made allegations against the priest concerning an incident 30 years ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The review board substantiated the new allegation against him and he was placed on administrative leave.
The archdiocese said that Father Chapman was never returned to active ministry and the abuse allegation was reported to law enforcement immediately.
A total of 26 priests were suspended from ministry by Archbishop Chaput's predecessor, Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, in response to allegations of sex abuse or inappropriate behavior contained in a 2011 grand jury report. All but one case has now been resolved.
According to the Dec. 15 announcement, the review board said two priests removed for violating the standards of ministerial behaviors and boundaries faced sexual misconduct allegations that could not be substantiated. The other two priests violated church standards of behavior in unspecified ways. The standards bar offenses that range in severity from making inappropriate comments to committing more grave violations.
The archbishop decided that two of the seven priests are suitable for ministry. The review board said that allegations against them could not be substantiated.
A final case of a priest put on administrative leave in response to the grand jury report is still under investigation by the archdiocese. Law enforcement declined to press charges concerning the case in November 2013. When the investigation finishes, the archdiocese’s review boards will provide a recommendation to Archbishop Chaput.
Another priest not connected to the grand jury report has also been placed on leave.
On Dec. 15 the Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed on leave Father John P. Paul, 67, after allegations that he sexually abused minors. The priest had resigned as pastor of Our Lady of Calvary Parish in Philadelphia in November 2013, after which the archdiocese received new claims the priest committed sexual abuse over 30 years ago.
The archdiocese first received claims against the priest in late 2012, concerning alleged abuse more than 40 years ago. The archdiocese said it reported the allegations to law enforcement, which declined to press charges. The new claims of abuse against the priest are the subject of a pending law enforcement investigation.
The archdiocese said Father Paul was barred from unsupervised contact with children during the first investigation.
Archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the archdiocese decided to restrict his ministry rather than put him on administrative leave “based on the information available at the time.”
“There was nothing there that was leading the review board to believe he was a danger to minors,” he said.