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  Priest Restricted by Kid-Porn Case
'Disobeyed' Church by Saying Masses

By Ron Goldwyn
Philadelphia Daily News
December 19, 2002

APRIEST WHO violated his prohibition against performing any public ministry after a child pornography conviction could become the first local test case for new Vatican rules regarding sexual offenses.

Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua said yesterday he expects to refer the Rev. Edward M. DePaoli's status to a lay review board the cardinal appointed this fall.

He said he would ask the board for recommendations on how to handle and possibly discipline DePaoli, 58. He has been living at the St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother Church rectory in Stowe, Montgomery County, since 1995.

DePaoli was convicted by a federal judge in 1986 of using the mail to buy child porn. He held a doctorate and taught Christian morality at Bishop McDevitt High School when he was arrested with 111 magazines and 51 films and videotapes.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia immediately stripped him of all priestly duties except the right to wear a collar and say Mass privately. He was sent to treatment facilities, placed on administrative leave, and given residence in rectories, archdiocesan spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said.

Bevilacqua, at a press conference preceding his annual Christmas party for children at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza, said DePaoli had "breached" his orders by delivering sermons as he concelebrated Mass recently.

"He was not allowed to preach," Bevilacqua said. "He disobeyed."

The archdiocesan office for clergy learned of the forbidden homilies after parishioners called in to praise them, Rossi said. He was immediately ordered to stop, and also forbidden to concelebrate.

The DePaoli case, widely publicized in the 1980s, differs from the sexual-abuse scandal that has rocked the U.S. Catholic Church this year in that no child was molested.

The cardinal noted DePaoli is "not a danger to anyone" but his offense - which drew a sentence of one year of probation - was "certainly immoral."

"Because of that perception, we have to look at it again," he said. "Why was there a breakdown in the supervision?"

Rossi said DePaoli has had no contact with children at St. Gabriel, which doesn't have a school. Neither he nor St. Gabriel's pastor, the Rev. James W. Gormley, returned calls to the rectory.

The review board was authorized in disciplinary rules for sexual abuse cases that U.S. bishops hammered out in Dallas last June. The Vatican forced a softening of the rules before approving them last month.

Bevilacqua continues to say he will enforce "zero tolerance" against any abuser, a policy tougher than the new norms. But he praised the Vatican for quickly accepting the norms and said he thinks they'll work well.

Bevilacqua last summer appointed a commission, whose membership includes former Police Commissioner John Timoney, to study diocesan programs and policies on abuse cases. Four commission members are also on the interim review board that has yet to meet.

The cardinal said he expects the commission report shortly. Then he said he will likely set up a permanent lay review board and hand it the DePaoli case.

Among other issues: Can DePaoli continue to live in a parish rectory? Should any action be taken against the parish priest who permitted DePaoli to preach and concelebrate Mass? Is a porn case subject to the disciplinary rules for abuse cases?

Bevilacqua said he has removed from any active ministry all priests who had been subject to even one credible allegation of sexually molesting a minor.

That included about a half-dozen removed from the restricted ministry locally in February after the Boston abuse scandal broke.

The cardinal said yesterday he knows of no other priests with any diocesan duties who ever faced either abuse or pornography charges.

Bevilacqua, answering questions for the first time since his friend, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, resigned, said Law was "very prudent" to quit. He called it a "courageous act on his part."

Bevilacqua seemed startled when asked if Law, who has said he will ultimately leave Massachusetts, would be welcome here.

"As a friend? He's always welcome as a friend," he said, adding Law had promised he was "not going to embarrass anyone."

 
 

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