Editorial: Priest Defrocked
It's Not Better Late

Philadelphia Inquirer
February 19, 2008

That it took three decades before a Philadelphia priest first accused of sexually abusing boys was finally defrocked explains why so many have lost faith in the Roman Catholic Church's ability to police itself.

The move to defrock David Sicoli comes as too little too late for at least 11 minors he allegedly abused from 1977 to 2002, according to a grand jury report.

Sicoli's case further underscores the need for the state to pass a law that would allow victims to sue abusers after the statute of limitations has passed.

California and Delaware have passed laws that provide a "window" of up to two years to file civil suits regardless of when the assaults occurred.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the insurance industry oppose such a measure in Pennsylvania. But the archdiocese should relent - regardless of the legal costs - if it ever wants to move past its long and sordid history in helping to cover up this scandal.

The 2005 grand jury report found 63 priests who had abused hundreds of children over several decades. In some cases, top archdiocese leaders concealed the abuse in an effort to protect the church, the report said.

Sicoli's case is particularly disturbing. There were questions of inappropriate contact with altar boys almost from the start of his becoming a priest in Philadelphia. He plied boys with alcohol and subjected them to mutual masturbation and oral sex, the grand jury report said.

Fellow priests complained about Sicoli's behavior to top church officials. Rather than confront the problem, he was transferred to nine parishes, and was even named associate director of a religious youth education program.

Only after a church official was asked about Sicoli by the grand jury in 2004 did the archdiocese finally launch an investigation. That same year, he took a leave of absence. It took four more years for the Vatican to defrock Sicoli.

While he can no longer work as a priest, Sicoli remains a free man and isn't a registered sex offender. He's never been charged with a crime because the statute of limitations has expired.

The archdiocese won't say where Sicoli lives, other than to point out he is in a private residence. But real estate records show he owns a condo in Sea Isle City - across from a playground.


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