Church Defrocks Philadelphia Priest

By Sam Wood
Philadelphia Inquirer
February 14, 2008

A Philadelphia priest, accused in 2004 of molesting at least 11 boys, has been defrocked by the Roman Catholic Church, archdiocese officials announced today.

David C. Sicoli served as a priest from 1975 until July 2004 at numerous parishes in Philadelphia, Ambler and Yeadon.

Sicoli was officially "removed from the clerical state" by order of the Vatican. Sicoli volunteered for laitization after the archdiocese substantiated accusations that he had abused several boys.

Technically, Sicoli, 60, will remain a priest. The church teaches that there is an "indelible priestly character" taken on by the soul during ordination, said Msgr. Thomas Green, an expert in canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

"Once you've been ordained, it's irrevocable," Green said. "It's similar to being baptized. Doctrine states that it cannot be set aside; it transcends whatever human beings may do."

However, Sicoli may no longer perform any function as a priest anywhere, said Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, in a statement released today.

Sicoli's last known address was in Philadelphia but it is not known where he now lives.

Sicoli, according to grand jury testimony in 2003, "had a long history of abusive and manipulative relationships with adolescents" that included oral sex and mutual masturbation.

Despite several warnings from other priests, the church transferred Sicoli to new parishes as scandal pursued him. Diocese officials did nothing to intervene. Instead, they promoted him, naming Sicoli the associate director of the CCD youth program for the entire Philadelphia area, according to court documents.

In 1990, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua named Sicoli pastor of Our Lady of Holy Souls in North Philadelphia.

Three more postings at parishes followed, despite numerous complaints from staff that Sicoli kept boys living with him in the rectory, according to the grand jury report.

Bevilacqua, who stepped down in 2003, never asked the archdiocese to investigate claims against Father Sicoli, the testimony states.

The following year, an Archdiocese Review Board assigned an investigator to look into the rumors of abuse.

The board found "multiple substantiated allegations involving a total of 11 minors . . . beginning in 1977.

The Review Board then recommended Sicoli be removed from the ministry.

According to the archdiocese, Sicoli served as a priest at the following parishes: Saint Joseph, Ambler; Saint Martin of Tours, Philadelphia; Immaculate Conception, Levittown; Saint Athanasius, Philadelphia; Saint Louis, Yeadon; Saint Raymond of Penafort, Philadelphia; Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Philadelphia (closed in 1993); Our Lady of Hope, Philadelphia; Saint Anthony of Padua, Philadelphia (closed 1999); and Holy Spirit, Philadelphia.

Church authorities said they realize their announcement "may be painful to those who have experienced sexual abuse within the church."

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or at


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