3 Priests Quietly Dismissed
Unlike in 2003, When the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Publicly Ended the Careers of Four Priests, the Latest Dismissals Were Not Widely Known

By David O'Reilly
Philadelphia Inquirer [Pennsylvania]
February 6, 2005

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia dismissed three priests in November - quietly.

Months earlier, two of the priests had stepped down as pastors after they were accused of sexually abusing minors, which they denied.

But on Nov. 22, when the church removed them from ministry, effectively ending their careers, it made no announcement outside their parishes, and last week provided little additional information.

The three men removed from ministry were the Rev. John P. Schmeer, pastor of St. Martin of Tours parish in New Hope since 1991; the Rev. David C. Sicoli, pastor of Holy Spirit parish in South Philadelphia since 1999; and the Rev. James T. Henry, parochial vicar at Christ the King parish in Philadelphia since 2000.

Their exits were in contrast with the archdiocese's public announcement of the dismissals of four priests for sex-abuse charges in 2003. The church identified the priests by name - suggesting a new transparency after decades of secrecy.

On Dec. 18, 2003, the archdiocesan newspaper reported that the church review board had "determined that allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers against [the] four priests are deemed credible."

Church officials declined on Friday to explain their handling of the latest dismissals. Spokeswoman Donna M. Farrell said, "Because of the secrecy imposed by the grand jury proceedings, I cannot comment any further."

Farrell was referring to the long-running grand jury probe of clergy sex-abuse cases.

As a consequence, the church is saying little about other steps taken in recent months to deal with allegations against priests. Last week, the archdiocese:

Declined to say how many priests it had removed for sex offenses with minors since the height of the scandal in 2002.

Declined to say whether its review board, launched in 2003 to investigate sex abuse charges, had found credible evidence against the three priests recently removed. It said the board's work was confidential.

Declined to say whether the review board is investigating charges against any other priests of the archdiocese.

Farrell pointed out that when the church learned of allegations against Schmeer and Sicoli last spring and removed them as pastors, it issued news statements announcing that the two were under investigation.

Schmeer and Sicoli deny that they sexually abused minors, Farrell said. Sicoli is appealing his case to the Vatican.

Henry is living "a supervised life of prayer and penance" at a church facility, she said.

Farrell said the archdiocese had notified the accusers of all three men of their removals.


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