Church's Sex Abuse Review Finds 5 Philadelphia Priests 'Not Suitable for Ministry'

By Kari Huus
May 5, 2012

Five priests have been deemed "not suitable for ministry," the Catholic Church of Philadelphia announced Friday, in its first action since it suspended 26 priests after a January 2011 grand jury report detailed dozens of cases of sexual abuse by clergy.

Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput said three other clergy were reinstated to the ministry and one had died without a determination. Of the rest, six cases have not been completed by law enforcement, so the church has been unable to perform its own review, and the others were under investigation or pending final disposition, he said.

Chaput said the investigation, which he described as "exhaustive," was being carried out by a team that included 20 experts in child abuse, who have called in more than 200 witnesses and reviewed more than 400,000 pages of documents.

"The process of reviewing these cases was designed to ensure that the decisions announced today reflect our commitment to protect children, assist victims, restore the integrity of the priesthood and provide evidence to the broader community that they can have confidence in these outcomes," said Chaput.

The names of the five clergy removed from the ministry were not included in the archbishop's announcement. But Philadelphia's reported that they were Rev. George Cadwallader, Msgr. Francis Feret, Rev. Robert Povish, Rev. John Reardon and Rev. Thomas Rooney.

The three clergy who were deemed "suitable" to return to the ministry are Rev. Philip Barr, Rev. Michael Chapman and Msgr. Michael Flood, the report said.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent out a statement saying they're shocked that more than a year after a grand jury raised concerns about 37 accused priests, only eight of the cases are resolved, according to NBC Philadelphia.

SNAP had called on Chaput to personally visit every parish where priests with "unsubstantiated" allegations have worked and appeal to "victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forrward and shed light on the accusations, one way or another." Instead, the victims group said, "we predict he'll do the bare minimum and make no real outreach efforts."

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, a 51-year-old Philadelphia man said Feret sexually assaulted him at least 100 times in the 1970s when he was a student at St. Timothy's school in Northeast Philadelphia.

The abuse occurred in the church confessional, choir loft and other places, according to the victim, who the newspaper said chose to remain unnamed.

He told the paper that he once reported the abuse to a teacher and the school principal, but nothing happened.

After the 2011 suspensions of the priests, including Feret, the man contacted and was interviewed by police. News that the priest was being removed came as a huge relief, the man told the Inquirer.

"It's affected my whole life in every way," he said.

Those priests found unsuitable "will have no public ministry in the Archdiocese," Chaput said Friday. If they do not appeal, or appeal unsuccessfully, he said, "they could be laicized (removed from the clerical state), live under some supervision, or live a life of prayer and penance."


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