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  Church Rebukes 3 Area Priests

By Nancy Phillips
Philadelphia Inquirer
June 3, 2005

In the latest fallout from the long-running clergy sex scandal, the Catholic Church has taken the rare step of defrocking two priests who once served the Philadelphia Archdiocese and permanently barring a retired Center City pastor from ministry.

The retired pastor, Msgr. Philip J. Dowling, had been suspended in March after admitting to The Inquirer that he had "crossed the bound" by repeatedly fondling a teenage girl decades ago.

One of the defrocked priests, the Rev. Edward M. DePaoli, 60, had been convicted of child-pornography charges in 1986 but had been allowed to remain in limited ministry until 2002. The other, the Rev. Martin J. Satchell, was quietly dismissed from ministry in 1993 but did not surface in public accounts of the scandal until yesterday.

Even as they announced the actions yesterday, church officials declined to say what Satchell, 39, had done to warrant defrocking - except that he had been the subject of "a credible accusation of misconduct involving a minor."

The news was announced yesterday on Page 10 of the Catholic Standard and Times, the archdiocese's weekly newspaper. None of the three priests could be reached for comment yesterday.

Dowling, 75, who led St. Patrick Church near Rittenhouse Square until his retirement last year, was stripped of his priestly functions at the direction of Cardinal Justin Rigali, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese said yesterday. As a result, he can no longer work as a priest, administer the sacraments, wear clerical garb, or say Mass in public.

Dowling, who had been living in the city's Juniata Park section, will be sent to a residential treatment facility for abusive priests, where he will undergo psychiatric counseling and have his whereabouts monitored.

"He's accepted a life of prayer and penance," said Donna M. Farrell, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Once named by then-Cardinal John Krol to head a church human-relations panel, he is the highest-ranking priest in the archdiocese to be publicly accused of sex abuse.

The archdiocese declined to say yesterday how many priests it has dismissed as a result of such allegations. Previously, the church has said at least 47 of its priests, living and dead, had been accused of sexually abusing minors over the last half-century.

Satchell and DePaoli are the first priests in the archdiocese to be defrocked since the scandal broke in 2002, Farrell said.

Defrocking, or removal from the priesthood, is a penalty only the Vatican can impose. Asked why Dowling did not face this sanction, Farrell said she was unable to get more details last night.

The allegations against all three priests date back years.

DePaoli was convicted on pornography charges in 1986 when, as assistant pastor at Holy Martyrs parish in Oreland, Montgomery County, he was found to have magazines, films and videotapes of underage boys.

He received a one-year suspended sentence, was sent to counseling, and, in 1995, was assigned to St. Gabriel's rectory in Stowe, Montgomery County. There, he was placed in so-called "restricted ministry" and barred from administering sacraments or saying Mass in public.

Despite that, DePaoli celebrated Mass and performed other public duties until 2002, when the archdiocese discovered his actions and dismissed him. Farrell said the church referred the case to the Vatican, which has now removed him from the priesthood.

Satchell, who was assistant pastor at St. Raymond of Penafort in Germantown for four months after his ordination in 1993, was defrocked at his own request, Farrell said. He had been dismissed by the archdiocese in September 1993 after what Farrell termed "a credible allegation of misconduct involving a minor." She declined to provide details. It could not immediately be learned whether parishioners had ever been informed of the allegations against Satchell.

As for Dowling, he was suspended in March after he told The Inquirer he had repeatedly fondled a teenager and touched her in an "inappropriate" sexual way.

"It crossed the bound," Dowling said of his actions, "and I'm very sorry for the inappropriate acts and touches."

Dowling's admission came after a reporter questioned him about the accounts of the two sisters, now in their 50s, who told the newspaper of years of abuse beginning in the early 1960s when they were preteens and he was their parish priest in North Philadelphia.

The women said the priest fondled them, touched their genitals, had them touch his, and ejaculated. One of the sisters alleged that the priest once raped her. Dowling adamantly denied this.

The church has since notified the sisters that an archdiocesan review board examined the allegations and found them "credible and believable," the sisters said.

The cardinal sent a letter of apology to both sisters and invited them to meet with him, said one sister, Pat McMenamin, now of Florida. She said the church also offered to pay her airfare and put her up in a hotel.

In an interview yesterday, McMenamin said she was grateful that the church had acted against Dowling but was disappointed by the penalty.

"I want the ultimate punishment: full removal," she said. "What crime do you have to commit to be thrown out?"

As The Inquirer reported in March, McMenamin and her sister took their allegations to the District Attorney's Office in the spring of 2002, shortly after District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham announced a grand jury investigation into sexual abuse by clergy.

Dowling was still in active ministry at the time, serving as pastor of St. Patrick. But the District Attorney's Office did not contact the priest or inform the archdiocese of the allegations.

After The Inquirer published the sisters' accounts and the church suspended Dowling, the District Attorney's Office apologized to the sisters. McMenamin said a prosecutor invited her and her sister to testify before the grand jury, now in its fourth year of investigating the scandal. In recent weeks, the panel has heard testimony about the Dowling case, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.

Once the archdiocese learned of the allegations, it quickly moved to suspend Dowling and do its own investigation. The church's investigator, Jack Rossiter, a former FBI agent, interviewed both women at length. They say he told them Dowling had hired two lawyers and had declined to give Rossiter more than a cursory interview. Rossiter has declined to comment.

Contact staff writer Nancy Phillips at 215-854-2254 or nphillips@phillynews.com.

Msgr. Philip J. Dowling, 75

Ordained: 1956. He studied in Rome and obtained a master's degree from Villanova University in 1960.

1957-1970: Assistant pastor at Corpus Christi parish in North Philadelphia.

1957-1958: Taught at Roman Catholic High School.

1958-1970: Taught theology and math at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

1964-1973: Headed the Cardinal's Commission on Human Relations.

1973-1987: Pastor, St. Elizabeth's parish, North Philadelphia.

1987: Pastor of St. Louis parish, Yeadon, Delaware County.

1991-2004: Pastor of St. Patrick parish in Center City.

The Rev. Edward M. DePaoli, 60

1970-2002: Priest in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Though the dates of his service were unavailable, DePaoli served in several parishes, including Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Doylestown and Mother of Divine Providence in King of Prussia, as well as at Bishop McDevitt High School in Cheltenham Township, where he taught ethics and morality. Other parish assignments included Holy Martyrs in Oreland, Montgomery County, and St. Gabriel's parish in Stowe, Montgomery County.

The Rev. Martin J. Satchell, 39

Ordained: May 1993.

Ministry: Assistant pastor, St. Raymond of Penafort in Germantown from May to September 1993, when he was dismissed.

SOURCE: Archdiocese of Philadelphia

 
 

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