The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced March 8 that it has suspended 21 priests from active ministry due to accusations they sexually abused or had otherwise inappropriate contact with minors.
The action follows a Feb. 10 grand jury report [see Black Collar Crime, page 20] accusing the church of a widespread decades-long cover-up of predatory priests. The report said as many as 37 priests remain in the active ministry despite credible accusations against them.
The archdiocese did not name the 21 men suspended, which drew ire from groups representing abuse victims. “Many parishioners are likely to learn that their priest was accused when he fails to appear for Ash Wednesday services,” The New York Times reported.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, in response to the grand jury report, initially said there were no priests in active ministry “who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them.”
“We may have to be asking, what did the cardinal know and when did he know it?” said Leonard Norman Primiano, chairman of the religious studies department at Cabrini College in Radnor, Pa.
The grand jury concluded the archdiocese failed to clean house after a 2005 grand jury found credible accusations of abuse by 63 priests. It suggested that potentially predatory priests had access to thousands of children for years.