Bishop Reveals Clergy Abuse Case
Diocese in Delaware Names N.O. Priest
By Bruce Nolan
November 28, 2006
A Delaware Catholic bishop recently disclosed to his flock that a priest who served in several parishes around New Orleans in the 1980s and '90s was suspended on grounds that he sexually abused a minor more than 26 years ago.
The Rev. Paul Calamari had left New Orleans in 1997 and was living under the jurisdiction of Bishop Michael Saltarelli of the Diocese of Wilmington in 2003 when his privilege to say Mass and perform other priestly duties was lifted, Saltarelli reported in his diocesan newspaper on Nov. 17.
Calamari was among 20 priests the Wilmington diocese removed from ministry between 1985 and 2003 on "admitted, corroborated, or otherwise substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors," Saltarelli said.
Calamari was ordained in New Orleans and served at St. Raphael, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishes, said the Rev. William Maestri of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Calamari was also the archdiocese's director of religious education for a time, Maestri said.
Calamari left New Orleans on medical leave for treatment at St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, Pa., a psychiatric center for priests and other church ministers, Maestri said.
Maestri said the archdiocese received a complaint that Calamari sexually abused a minor before Calamari's ordination to the priesthood in 1980. Maestri said he wasn't sure when the complaint was received, although he assumed it was connected to Calamari's 1997 departure.
Maestri said Calamari's case was handled under a local sexual abuse policy then in place mandating that a priest credibly accused of abusing a minor would be relieved from ministry, usually with no public notice. Whether he might return after treatment was left to the local bishop's discretion.
The more rigorous standard that a single case of sexual abuse of a minor would forever end a minister's active priesthood came in 2002, in a joint agreement among Catholic bishops meeting in Dallas at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
Maestri said Calamari was sent for therapy in the late 1990s, and on therapists' recommendations, was allowed to resume limited ministry in Delaware and Pennsylvania with local bishops' knowledge and consent.
The new Dallas standard ended Calamari's ministry. Maestri said that because Calamari remains a priest, the archdiocese is required by church law to maintain his salary. Saltarelli said Calamari's last known address was in Pennsylvania.
Saltarelli's disclosure was the first news that Calamari was credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Since 2002 virtually all bishops have agreed to disclose publicly whether a priest or employee has been credibly accused of abusing a minor. But most, including Archbishop Alfred Hughes, have been reluctant to disclose the names of long-ago abusers, either dead or no longer in ministry. "This is very, very, very painful work, because of the lives involved on both sides of the equation," Maestri said in 2004 about whether the disclosing of past abusers' names would help people.
Saltarelli acknowledged he was disclosing old names "with some hesitancy... These priests can no longer harm anyone."
But "perhaps by identifying deceased priests, some of their victims may be motivated to seek help," he wrote.
Maestri on Monday repeated the archdiocese's standing plea to any victims of sexual abuse to come forward and seek help.
Bruce Nolan can be reached at email@example.com or (504) 826-3344.
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