Philly Priest Probed for Abuse from Decades Ago

By Julie Shaw
Philadelphia Daily News
May 11, 2010

Yet again, another priest has been tainted by an allegation of sexual abuse from decades ago.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese announced yesterday that Msgr. George Mazzotta was recently accused of sexually abusing a minor "more than 40 years ago."

Mazzotta, 72, had been serving as a parochial vicar at Stella Maris Parish, at 10th and Bigler streets, in South Philadelphia, since 2008. Since the allegation, he has agreed to "refrain from the public exercise of his priestly ministry" pending a formal investigation, the archdiocese said.

Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said that she could not reveal the year of the alleged abuse, the gender or age of the alleged victim, whether the minor was a parishioner or the parish Mazzotta was serving at the time of the alleged abuse, so as to protect the "need for privacy."

She did, however, say that the allegation was reported to the Chester County District Attorney's Office.

Mazzotta was ordained in 1966 and began his service that year at St. Joseph Church, on Manor Avenue, in Downingtown, Chester County. He was there until 1971, when he moved to Philadelphia.

Since the alleged abuse occurred more than 40 years ago, it is likely it occurred while Mazzotta was at St. Joseph. Julie Wiant, parish- services director at St. Joseph, did not return a call yesterday from the Daily News.

Elizabeth Pitts, a deputy district attorney in Chester County, said yesterday that she was not aware of any complaint about Mazzotta, but said that the report could have gone to someone else in her office.

The Archdiocese said in a statement that this is the "first such allegation" of sexual abuse that it has received regarding Mazzotta.

It said that Mazzotta agreed to move to the Villa Saint Joseph, in Darby, a home for retired priests. The Villa has a communal-living program for priests against whom sexual-abuse allegations have been substantiated. But Farrell said that Mazzotta was not in that part of the retirement home.

Parishioners of Stella Maris were informed of the allegation after Masses on Sunday.

One woman said that a visiting priest celebrated the Mass she attended and told people with children to leave the church before he informed the remaining parishioners of the allegation.

People were "shocked," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

It was "something that happened years ago. He was young," this woman said, adding that Mazzotta is "very nice."

Another parishioner, a 69-year-old woman who also did not want her name printed, said that she heard the news from her daughter who went to Sunday Mass.

"He was so wonderful," the woman said of Mazzotta. "He was an asset to the parish. I enjoyed when he said the Mass."

Of the allegation, she said: "I'm so sad. Believe me, he's in my prayers."

A 42-year-old man who lives in the neighborhood and gave his first name as Pat has one child who now attends the Stella Maris school, which is closing in June. He lamented how the Catholic Church, by having "always brushed" allegations of sexual abuse "under the carpet," has needed to put so much money toward legal fees rather than pouring it into education.

David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), yesterday urged Cardinal Justin Rigali to "work hard to find others who were hurt" by Mazzotta.

"The only prudent assumption is that if the cleric likely molested once, he probably molested others," Clohessy wrote in an e-mailed statement.


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