Former Wood Principal Cleared of Abuse Charges by Archdiocese
By James Boyle
July 6, 2012
Former Archbishop Wood principal Rev. Msgr. John Close is one of four priests cleared of sexual abuse and misconduct charges today by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. An internal investigation by the archdiocese ruled the claims unsubstantiated and cleared the priests for public ministry.
Rev. Paul Castellani, Rev. Steven Harris and Rev. Leonard Peterson have also been restored to public ministry. Rev. Msgr. Close served as principal for Archbishop Wood from 1990 to 1994.
Rev. Msgr. Close and 25 other priests were placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia following an explosive February 2011 grand jury report that accused Catholic parishes throughout the Delaware Valley of covering up years of sexual abuses against minors.
Today's announcement revealed that two priests have been deemed unsuitable for public ministry after claims of misconduct were substantiated. Rev. John Bowe, who served at St. Charles parish in Warrington before his 2011 suspension, and Rev. David Givey are not accused of sexual abuse against a minor, but for violating the archdiocese's code of behavior. They can appeal the decision to the Vatican.
According to a release by the archdiocese, each case was submitted to the local district attorney's office prior to the independent investigation.
After receiving clearance, that investigation was conducted by the Multi-Disciplinary Team led by veteran child abuse prosecutor Gina Maisto Smith. The results of the investigations were then provided to the Archdiocesan Review Board, which gave a recommendation to Archbishop Charles Chaput, who made the final decision.
Archbishop Chaput announced his decision regarding eight other cases in May, with five priests removed from public service over substantiated claims of either sexual abuse of a minor or violation of the standards of behavior. According to an archdiocese spokesperson, there are 12 more cases currently unresolved.
A criminal investigation and trial recently resulted in a guilty verdict for Msgr. William Lynn for one count of child endangerment. The jury found that Msgr. Lynn, who Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua placed in charge of investigating child abuse claims from 1992 to 2004, allowed former priest William Avery to live and serve at St. Jerome Chruch in Northeast Philadelphia during the mid-1990s despite knowledge of a sexual abuse incident in the 1970s. Avery was defrocked in 2006 and pleaded guilty in March to the 1999 sexual assaults of an underage altar boy.
The same jury deadlocked on attempted rape and child endangerment charges against Rev. James J. Brennan. The trials against Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former school teacher Bernard Shero, both accused of molesting the same altar boy, are scheduled to begin in September.