Grand Jury Still Probing Priest Issue

By Jim Nolan
Philadelphia Daily News [Philadelphia PA]
December 19, 2003

When the Catholic Church moves faster than the district attorney's office, you know it must be serious.

In April 2002, District Attorney Lynne Abraham convened a grand jury to investigate allegations of priest sexual abuse of minors.

The announcement came on the heels of disclosures by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that it had determined there was "credible evidence" of abuse charges against 35 of its priests dating back 50 years.

Yesterday, the archdiocese publicly disclosed the names of four of those priests, along with word of their dismissals and proceedings under way to have them defrocked.

But more than 20 months later, there is still no word on how many, if any, indictments will come out of the grand jury.

"The grand-jury investigation is ongoing," said Abraham's spokeswoman, Cathie Abookire.

"There is no time limit on this investigation or any other investigation."

In fact, while the investigation may be continuing, the time limit expired on the first grand jury at the end of September, after 18 months. A second grand jury was convened last month to continue hearing the case.

By law, grand-jury deliberations are secret. The results of the first grand-jury deliberations have not been disclosed.

At the time she announced the grand jury in April 2002, Abraham said her office would investigate "all allegations" involving priests, regardless of whether they were "dead, dismissed or retired."

The archdiocese said it would cooperate with the investigation, but expressed "surprise" and "disappointment" over the probe.

Of the four priest dismissals announced yesterday, only one was from Philadelphia. But the alleged incident occurred too long ago and exceeded the statute of limitations during which criminal charges could be brought.

In August 2002, the statute of limitations was expanded from five to 12 years for rape, deviant sexual intercourse and indecent contact with minors.

In civil cases, the statute of limitations allows victims of sexual abuse as minors to file lawsuits until the age of 30.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.