Former Norristown Priest Found 'Not Suitable' for Ministry
By James Myers
April 7, 2013
According to a release issued Sunday by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. has found Msgr. Richard T. Powers, a retired priest with the Archdiocese, not suitable for ministry.
The decision comes after an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor that occurred approximately 40 years ago outside of the Philadelphia area was substantiated through an investigation by the Archdiocese.
The 77-year-old Powers was stationed at St. Patrick's Church in Norristown from 1964 to 1967. Sources familiar with the case say the incident in question happened during his foreign mission service in Venezuela in the late '60s through mid '70s. Details of the incident have not been released, but a source told Philly.com that it involved a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
According to the Archdiocese, Powers' case is not directly connected to the cases of priests placed on administrative leave following the February 2011 Grand Jury Report.
The investigation into the allegation against Powers began when the Archdiocese discovered a copy of a list reportedly ordered to have be destroyed some time ago by Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua. The list contained names of priests with allegations of sexual abuse against them. All of the priests on the list were either deceased, laicized (removed from the clerical state), or living a life of prayer and penance with the exception of Powers.
After turning the list over to the courts in 2012, Powers was placed on administrative leave. During that time Powers was not permitted to engage in public ministry, administer any of the Sacraments, wear clerical garb, or present himself publicly as a priest.
The Archdiocese says it alerted partitioners at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Philadelphia, where Powers had been residing, to the situation last year, but was not permitted to make a public announcement due to a court-imposed gag order. An announcement regarding the final decision in Powers’ case was made at the parish this weekend and crisis counselors were made available.
Powers will no longer have public ministry in the Archdiocese. He has the right to appeal the decision to the Vatican, and if he does not appeal, or if his appeal is unsuccessful, he could be laicized or live a life of prayer and penance.
Msgr. Powers was ordained in 1963 and served at the following parishes and schools:
Powers retired in 2010 and maintained residence at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Philadelphia. He was placed on administrative leave in March of 2011.
Our Lady of Mercy, Philadelphia (1963-1964)
Saint Patrick, Norristown (1964-1967)
Catholic Foreign Mission Service in Venezuela (1967-1976)
Saint Veronica, Philadelphia (1976-1980)
Saint Michael, Chester (1980-1982)
Saint Veronica, Philadelphia, (1982-1991)
Incarnation of Our Lord, Philadelphia (1991-1996)
Saint Michael the Archangel, Levittown (1996-2006)
Epiphany of Our Lord, Philadelphia (2006-2010).