Editorial: Two New Delco Priests Are Keeping the Faith

Daily Times
May 21, 2012

There was a time when becoming a Roman Catholic priest was considered a noble calling.

Many would still consider it such, but they would also realize it is not an easy one.

For the last decade, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and Europe has been stalked by hundreds of allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

In 2002, when a Boston priest was convicted of sexually molesting a child, the scandal broke nationwide. The accusations against priests flew so fast and furiously, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was forced to develop a Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People.

One of their most important provisos was that church officials must turn over any allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests to civil authorities, something they failed to do previously resulting in the perpetuation of pedophile priests at parishes and in the general public.

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia alone, more than 60 priests have been accused of allegedly assaulting minors over six decades in two grand jury reports one released in 2005, the other in 2011.

The last grand jury investigation resulted in the arrest of two priests, one defrocked priest and a male Catholic grade school teacher for the alleged sexual abuse of boys.

It also resulted in the arrest of the Rev. Msgr. William Lynn for allegedly endangering children by not turning known or suspected pedophile priests over to civil authorities when he was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. He was the first Roman Catholic Church official in the United States to be charged with such a crime.

Lynn is now on trial in Philadelphia along with accused child abuser the Rev. James Brennan, a former teacher at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Marple. Former Haverford resident Edward Avery, who was defrocked in 2006 because church officials found sexual abuse allegations against him credible, pleaded guilty to child abuse March 22, four days before he was to go on trial with Lynn and Brennan.

The last grand jury report, which chastised officials in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for their poor handling of sexual abuse complaints even after the 2005 report, also resulted in the suspension of 26 priests, including two Delaware County pastors, while complaints against them are reviewed by a panel headed by a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney.

Five were permanently removed from the ministry so far for either sexual abuse of minors who for behavior exceeding appropriate boundaries. On Sunday, two more were found unsuitable for ministry following allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

And so it is a wonder any young man would consider entering the priesthood.

Anthony Hangholt and Tim McGuire did not let the misdeeds of some priests dash their dreams of becoming clerics in the Roman Catholic Church.

In fact, the two Delaware County natives credit priests at their childhood parishes with being part of their inspiration for entering the priesthood. For Hangholt, it was the Rev. Michael Gerlach, former pastor at Holy Saviour Church in Lower Chichester. For McGuire, it was the Rev. Robert Chapman, who was formerly at St. Philomena Church in Lansdowne.

Last Saturday Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput ordained Hangholt and McGuire at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. On Sunday, they returned to their hometown parishes and celebrated their first Masses.

"We need more priests good men who are well formed; men of courage, zeal and genuine humility; men who love Jesus Christ and his people, and prove it with their lives. This is the first and most urgent step in renewing our church," wrote Chaput in his May 10 weekly column for the 1.5 million Roman Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

We applaud the Rev. Anthony Hangholt and the Rev. Tim McGuire for their courage in embracing their vocation in the face of adversity, and their determination to restore faith in the priesthood.


Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.