Priest Flouted Ban, Continued Duties after Child-Porn Case
By Chris Gray
December 18, 2002
Stowe — The Rev. Edward DePaoli gave such wonderful homilies at St. Gabriel's, a small Montgomery County parish near Pottstown, that parishioners sent their compliments to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
There was just one problem: Father DePaoli wasn't allowed to preach. The 57-year-old Roman Catholic priest had been convicted of receiving child pornography in 1986 and had been forbidden from conducting the sacraments solo since then, said Catherine Rossi, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.
"He was not allowed to say Mass by himself - ever," she said.
The ban also prohibited Father DePaoli from performing other public duties, such as marriages or baptisms, although he was allowed to wear clerical garb.
On occasion, Father DePaoli, a former teacher of ethics and morality at Bishop McDevitt High School in Cheltenham Township, was allowed to concelebrate, or share, saying Mass with other priests, Rossi said. To do so, he received special permission from the archdiocese's Office of Clergy, she said.
After the compliments rolled in, the archdiocese revoked that permission about six weeks ago, Rossi said. But Father DePaoli's situation, coming amid a year of widespread scandal and child-abuse charges in the Roman Catholic Church, raises questions of how the archdiocese should handle such cases in the future.
In 1986, a federal judge placed Father DePaoli on a one-year probation after he was found guilty of receiving 111 copies of a Dutch magazine called "Joy Boy 33."
The illegal items, which also included 40 films and 11 videotapes of child pornography, had been seized by federal postal inspectors from Father DePaoli's living quarters when he was assigned to Holy Martyr's Catholic Church in Oreland in 1985. The charges were the first of their kind to be brought against a priest in the Philadelphia region.
The archdiocese took away his public duties when the charges emerged, and Father DePaoli entered the Villa of St. John's Vienny, a Catholic health facility in Downingtown. In 1988, he went to the House of Affirmation, an after-care facility in Hopedale, Mass., for two years, Rossi said.
After his recuperation, Father DePaoli spent several years at St. John the Baptist parish in New Jersey, Rossi said. With the sacrament ban in place, he came back to Philadelphia to reside at Immaculate Conception in 1992, Rossi said. He went to St. Gabriel's on Dec. 2, 1995, with the understanding that he would work within the restrictions imposed by the archdiocese.
"He had no parish responsibilities," Rossi said. "He was simply in residence there."
Rossi said yesterday that she was aware of previous complaints against the priest but did not know their nature.
Because the case against Father DePaoli received much publicity in 1986, many parishioners at St. Gabriel's knew about his criminal past, Rossi said. Calls to the parish offices went unanswered.
For now, Father DePaoli will continue to live at the St. Gabriel's rectory, Rossi said. But his case will be forwarded to a lay review board, which will then make a recommendation to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, she said.
Rossi pointed out that Father DePaoli had not been charged with child abuse. But in light of the continuing church scandals, the archdiocese may have to change its policy on child-pornography offenders, she said.
"There is a fair question in whether he belongs in rectory," she said. "It's a question we probably need to re-ask ourselves. This is kind of a gray area."
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