Rigali suspends three priests, enlists former prosecutor to re-examine sex abuse claims

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is taking further action in response to a disturbing grand jury report released last week.   

Cardinal Justin Rigali has suspended three priests accused in the grand jury report of being child molesters and has pledged to reopen complaints made against 34 others still in active ministry with credible allegations of child sexual abuse. Joseph Gallagher, Stephan Perzan and Joseph DiGregorio are being removed from duty while their cases are investigated.  

To lead the re-examination, the archdiocese is counting on Gina Maisto Smith: a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney. For nearly two decades, she has prosecuted child sexual-assault cases.

Smith said it was not a difficult decision to take on the high-profile, sensitive work. 

“As a lifelong Catholic, as a mother of five, and as someone who’s fiercely committed to the protection of children through my life’s work, it was an easy decision and it was an impressive decision by the Archdiocese to bring someone like me — an outsider — in to re-examine these cases,” she said.

Smith will also assist the archdiocese in dealing with the District Attorney’s office and in responding to the grand jury report.

Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is not satisfied with the response.

“Cardinal Rigali can hire anyone he wants, but let’s remember he’s the one doing the hiring and the choosing.  We don’t believe Cardinal Rigali and his staff should be investigating sex crimes,” said Blaine. “We think sex crimes should be investigated by police and prosecutors.”

Blaine said she wonders if Smith will protect children or the archdiocese.

Last week the grand jury report accused a monsignor, three priests and a parochial school teacher of abusing kids or failing to prevent abuse by others.

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