2d Priest Suspended for Actions during Protest

By Theresa Conroy
Philadelphia Inquirer
January 20, 1987

The Rev. Dexter Lanctot, a Roman Catholic priest who was among four people charged recently with destroying government aircraft at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, was suspended indefinitely from his priestly duties yesterday, archdiocese officials announced.

Father Lanctot, 37, of Norristown, is the second priest suspended by the Chancery Office of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for involvement in a Jan. 6 demonstration at the Horsham base. Last week, the Rev. Thomas McGann, 36, of Chester, was suspended.

Marie Kelly, associate director of communications for the archdiocese, said yesterday that both suspensions were "a result of their actions" at the base. Both priests have been removed from their assistant pastorships, Father Lanctot from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Norristown and Father McGann from the Resurrection of Our Lord Church in Chester.

The priests have been charged by the FBI with sabotage, conspiracy to commit sabotage, destroying national defense equipment and trespass at a government installation. They and two lay people - Lin Romano, 30, of Washington, and Greg Boertje, 31, of Baltimore - were arrested by military police after they allegedly broke into the base.

The demonstrators were accused of causing an estimated $400,000 worth of damage to three government aircraft at the Horsham base, using hammers to break instruments and pound the bodies of two helicopters and an airplane.

Navy officials have cited base security in declining to comment on the incident.

The group, Father McGann said last week, was demonstrating against "nuclear intervention war policies." He said the activists, members of the Epiphany Plowshares, a newly formed peace activist group, poured their own blood onto the aircraft.

The Rev. John J. Sibel, communications director for the archdiocese, said Father Lanctot was suspended shortly after he signed a bail bond for release from the Philadelphia Detention Center. Until yesterday, Father Sibel said, Father Lanctot was imprisoned and was not acting as a priest.

Father McGann signed a bond Jan. 9 to act as spokesman for the group. He was suspended Jan. 12.

Lt. Cmdr. Rick Hadden contended last week that Romano and Father Lanctot cut a hole in the fence and entered the base, where they were apprehended by military police at 5:40 a.m. He alleged that Father McGann and Boertje scaled the 7-foot barbed wire fence to enter the base, where they were arrested about 6:30 a.m.

At a preliminary hearing in federal court last week, U.S. Magistrate Edwin Naythons held the demonstrators for grand jury action. A decision on a possible indictment is expected later this week.


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