Archdiocese: Former St. James priest tossed from ministry for molesting 17-year old in 1970s

By Patti Mengers
Daily Times
February 23, 2014

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput announced Sunday a priest who once taught at the former St. James Catholic High School for Boys in Chester is unsuitable for ministry because of a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

The Rev. John P. Paul, who taught at St. James and was on staff at the old St. Robert’s parish in Chester from 1986 to 1990, was removed from ministry because of a substantiated allegation that he sexually abused a 17-year-old more than 40 years ago when he was a seminarian, according to a press release from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He was ordained in 1972.

Archdiocesan officials said that they had referred the 67-year-old priest’s case to law enforcement authorities who, after a lengthy investigation, declined to prosecute. However, last Nov. 6, Paul was placed on administrative leave after he voluntarily resigned as pastor of Our Lady of Calvary Church in Philadelphia where he had served since 2000.

In a press release last December, archdiocesan officials said that subsequent to Paul’s suspension “the archdiocese received multiple, new allegations that Father Paul had sexually abused minors over 30 years ago. These allegations were reported to the appropriate district attorney’s office.”

In addition to St. James High School in Chester, Paul also had taught at Archbishop Kennedy-Kenrick and Bishop McDevitt high schools, both in Montgomery County, and was on staff at parishes in Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Philadelphia counties. At last report, he was living in a private residence.

Chaput also announced on Sunday that the Rev. James J. Collins was found by archdiocesan officials to be unsuitable for ministry following a substantiated allegation that he sexually abused a 17-year-old more than 40 years ago. The 75-year-old priest, who was ordained in 1964, was placed on administrative leave in May 2013. Archdiocesan officials did not say on Sunday where he is now residing.

Collins had retired from teaching at Holy Family University in Philadelphia in early 2013 and was last in residence at St. Martha Parish in Philadelphia. He also formerly taught at Roman Catholic High School for Boys and Cardinal Dougherty High School, both in Philadelphia, and served at several Philadelphia parishes.

Archdiocesan officials noted that Paul’s and Collins’ cases are not connected and neither were part of the group of more than 20 priests placed on administrative leave following the February 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse of minors.

Allegations against both priests were referred to law enforcement authorities who declined to prosecute, according to archdiocesan officials. Their cases were then referred to the Archdiocesan Professional Responsibility Review Board, a panel of 12 men and women with backgrounds in investigation and child sexual abuse treatment, who recommended removing both Paul and Collins from public ministry.

Neither priest is permitted to have a public ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia according to archdiocesan officials who said the men have the right to appeal the decision to the Vatican.

“If they do not appeal or if an appeal is unsuccessful, they could be laicized — removed from the clerical state — or live a life of prayer and penance,” said archdiocesan officials in a press release Sunday.


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