Archdiocese Removes Priest from Two Posts after Sexual-Abuse Allegation

By David O'Reilly
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 23, 2010

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia reported Monday that it had removed the Rev. William G. Ayres from his posts at two parishes after receiving an allegation that he had sexually abused a minor in the 1990s.

Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said it learned of the allegation on Thursday and asked Ayres, 39, to step down as pastor of St. Michael parish in North Philadelphia. He was also parochial administrator of nearby Immaculate Conception parish.

Neither parish has its own school.

Farrell said the archdiocese turned over the allegation to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office for investigation as soon as it was received.

"We do not investigate these cases ourselves," said Farrell. "We leave it to the District Attorney's Office to determine if the charges are credible" and warrant charges.

Reached late Monday night, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office declined to comment.

Pending the investigation, Ayres will reside at Villa St. Joseph in Darby, the retirement home for archdiocesan priests. He is not permitted to exercise his priestly ministry in public during the investigation.

Ayres could not be reached for comment. A man answering the phone at Villa St. Joseph Monday night would not put a reporter in touch with Ayres.

Members of both parishes were informed at Masses over the weekend of Ayres' suspension, Farrell said.

It was the second time in a week that the archdiocese has relieved a pastor of his duties because of possible wrongdoing. Last Tuesday, the Rev. Geraldo J. Pinero stepped down as pastor of Incarnation of Our Lord parish in Olney, the day federal agents raided his parish and seized his computer. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents conducted the raid, but ICE officials declined to comment on why.

Farrell said last week's abuse allegation was the first it had received about Ayres, who was ordained in 1999 after graduating from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. He attended St. Frances de Sales Elementary School and West Catholic High School before entering the seminary.

He also spent time in the 1990s at Mount St. Angels Seminary in St. Benedict, Ore.

After his ordination, Ayres served at Incarnation of Our Lord Parish in Philadelphia until 2002; at St. Katharine Drexel parish in Chester from 2002 to 2003; and as director of the Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees from 2003 to 2007. He also served as coordinator of the Laotian Apostolate from 2001 to 2003.

He has been parochial administrator of Immaculate Conception since 2006, and St. Michael's since 2007.

People wishing to contact the archdiocese about matters related to sexual abuse may call its Victim Assistance Office at 1-888-800-8780 or visit its website at

Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or .

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