Saturday, August 20, 2011

Philly priests form association amid abuse crisis

Aug. 19, 2011
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Roman Catholic priests in the conservative Philadelphia archdiocese have formed an independent association amid "a vacuum of information" about the latest clergy-abuse scandal, the Rev. Christopher Walsh confirmed Friday.

Walsh, one of the organizers of the Association of Philadelphia Priests, said the group was created for priests to learn more about how the archdiocese is handling the problem. The association is still finalizing its bylaws.

A grand jury in February charged three priests and a teacher with rape and a monsignor with endangering children by reassigning priests. Prosecutors found that 37 suspected abusers remained on duty. The archdiocese later suspended about two dozen of them.

The grand jury report stunned priests across the five-county archdiocese, which has about 500 active priests.

"How could this be happening again? The guys, they were at a loss," Walsh told The Associated Press.

The priests had endured a blistering 2005 grand jury report that said 63 Philadelphia priests had been credibly accused of sex assaults over several decades. And U.S. bishops had by 2002 ordered dioceses to take a zero-tolerance approach to abuse complaints.


None of them intend to challenge incoming Archbishop Charles Chaput on priest celibacy, the ordination of women, or other hot-button issues, Walsh said.

Walsh said priests in the diocese are struggling, along with the laity and non-Catholics in the region, to understand how the sex-abuse problem was allowed to fester. They also want to protect the rights of the suspended priests whose cases are now under review.

Priests in other dioceses have long formed independent organizations, ........

But priests in the famously insular Philadelphia archdiocese have never joined the 43-year-old group, according to the Rev. Richard Vega, the federation president.

"Their bishops never wanted them to belong. We were seen as too radical," Vega added.

The next challenge may be how to reintegrate an exonerated priest back into church life.

Other dioceses have had to address the problem on a case-by-case basis, but Philadelphia has at least two dozen cases pending simultaneously.

"The hard part is rehabilitating and exonerating (someone) and welcoming them back," Vega said. "It will be interesting to see what Philadelphia does."

Full article at Houston Chronicle

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