21 priests suspended in response to grand jury report

Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, has placed 21 Catholic priests on administrative leave.

Today’s announcement is the latest in response to a grand jury report that identified 37 priests suspected of inappropriate behavior with minors.

David Clohessy is the executive director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“Suspending child molesters from their positions is what any reasonable employer would do,” Clohessy said. “It would be incredibly naive for anybody to think that a mere suspension of these men somehow signifies a new day in the Archdiocese.”

The Grand Jury Report identified 37 cases of concern. In addition to the 21, three priests were placed on administrative leave after the report was released in February.

According to the Archdiocese, five others would have been subject to administrative leave. However, one was already on leave and two who are incapacitated have not been in active ministry. Two others no longer serve in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The Archdiocese says the remaining eight priests will not be subject to administrative leave because the initial independent examination of these cases found no further investigation is warranted.

David Clohessy, of SNAP, calls the action long overdue, but said it’s only a very partial first step.

“The priests who commit child sex crimes – sometimes they’re caught, sometimes they’re suspended, sometimes they go to jail – but the men who ignore and conceal their crimes, virtually never even get a slap on the wrists by the church hierarchy.”

Clohessy said until that changes, he believes the cover-ups will continue.

Cardinal Rigali said in reviewing the concerns of the Grand Jury, it became clear the Archdiocese needed additional and independent expertise in place to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse.

“That is why I turned to a veteran child abuse prosecutor, Gina Maisto Smith, and asked her to re-examine both the cases of concern for the Grand Jury and the way in which the Archdiocese handles allegations of sexual abuse of minors,” Rigali said in the release.

District Attorney Seth Williams praised Cardinal Rigali’s actions,

“Cardinal Rigali’s actions are as commendable as they are unprecedented, and they reflect his concern for the physical and spiritual well-being of those in his care,” Williams said.

Williams said going forward, in cases involving allegations of abuse by clergy, his office and the Philadelphia Police will investigate, and where appropriate will charge and prosecute. He said he intends to use the resources of the district attorney’s office to the greatest extent possible to protect the children of Philadelphia.

In reviewing the concerns of the Grand Jury, it became clear that we needed additional and independent expertise in place to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse. That is why I turned to a veteran child abuse prosecutor, Gina Maisto Smith, and asked her to re-examine both the cases of concern for the Grand Jury and the way in which the Archdiocese handles allegations of sexual abuse of minors. She brings 15 years of experience to bear in assessing, investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse allegations.

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