Scoop: What Happened to Suspended Priest?

By Tom Sunnergren
Radnor Patch
December 14, 2011

On March 7, St. Katharine of Siena pastor Msgr. John A. Close was removed from active ministry and, after an initial investigation by the Church, became one of 21 priests suspended indefinitely by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia due to credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

Though Close maintains his innocence, and can't be legally prosecuted because the statue of limitations on his accusers has expired—in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a child sex abuse accuser who turned 18 before Aug. 27, 2002 extends until they reach age 30.

Both of Close's accusers came forward after this window closed—Archdiocese director of communications Donna Farrell told Patch in an email that the Church is conducting it's own investigation against Close and the other priests who were accused.

"[The investigation] is ongoing," Farrell wrote. "It's hoped all of the cases will be resolved soon but I can't provide an exact time line."

Farrell said she was barred from getting into specifics about where Close will be spending his indefinite leave (it's unclear if she knows), but referred us to an Archdiocese bulletin that emphasized he wouldn't be allowed anywhere near St. Katharine while he's being investigated.

"While on administrative leave, priests do not reside in a parish, nor participate in any parish or school activities and they may not exercise their priestly ministry publicly," the bulletin read.

Close is, however, allowed to wear his clerical garb. He also receives full salary.

Close, who worked at nine parishes with schools in his four decades as a priest, has two separate accusers. In 1998, a man told the Archdiocese and Philadelphia police that he had been molested by Close as an eight grader at Christ the King school in 1969, Close's first assignment after his ordination earlier that year. The man reported that the abuse took place at Close's Margate, New Jersey beach house and the parish sacristy.

The Archdiocese looked into the accusation in 2004 (the reason for the delay is unclear) and deemed that it was "unsubstantiated." This may have something to do with the fact that the accuser was convicted of murder in 1998, not long after reporting the abuse to authorities.

In the Spring of 2011, after hearing about Close's suspension, a second man came forward and claimed that Close molested him from 1992-94 while he was a student at Archbishop Wood High School. The abuse began, he said, while he was 14 and had caused him anxiety, depression, and triggered a drug problem.

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