Questions About Permanently Removed Priests Unanswered


Black smoke rose at the Vatican today, but I was thinking about the smoke screen here in Philadelphia until the 2011 Grand Jury Report cleared the air.

That report, rather than concern or morality, was what prompted Cardinal Rigali to remove 26 “unsuitable” priests from ministry for investigation. According to court documents the Philadelphia hierarchy was well aware of the risks these men posed long before the report was released. Vigilant oversight seems imperative to the protection of children in this and many dioceses around the world.

The story is far from over here in Philadelphia. What happened to those 26? Last May, Archbishop Chaput announced the permanent removal of five priests. One priest had died and three were restored to ministry. In July, he announced two more would be permanently removed. In September, one who had been restored was removed again for further investigation. The fate of 19 priests is still pending.

The priests who were removed from ministry had three options:

1- Live a life of prayer and penance.

2- Laicization.

3- Appeal to the Vatican.

This past week, I asked the archdiocese for an update on what each of the priests removed from ministry had chosen. These choices have implications that impact the laity.

There are no official updates on those choices, according to Kenneth A. Gavin, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

So where are those priests who are appealing to the Vatican? No official update.

The priests who chose a life in the prayer and penance program are housed at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for the clergy in Darby. Click here for info on the program. You’ll find the Q&A info a little spotty. For instance:

Q: How can a victim or the public find out if a priest is in the Prayer and Penance Program?
A: Victims of sexual abuse or the general public can visit the Delegate for Investigation Web Site at: http://archphila.org/delegate.
Good luck. I tried to look up the status of one of the priests Archbishop Chaput removed in July – Father David W. Givey. Can you find him on any list? Can you find a specific list for those in the program?
It’s no surprise the archdiocese pays for the food, shelter and healthcare for the priests in the prayer and penance program, but I was a bit taken back by the almost $1000 a month pension they each receive in addition.
Finally, what about those who left the priesthood? They are out there in someone’s community. Since Bevilacqua’s administration, in a very calculated manner, waited out the statute of limitations, you won’t find them on any criminal watch lists. Perhaps the Archdiocese should perform a public service and create their own.
As we welcome a new Pope soon, remember we share his responsibility in shaping the Catholic Church of the future. We can do that right here at home. Holding our leadership accountable protects our Church.
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19 Responses to “Questions About Permanently Removed Priests Unanswered”

  1. Ironic, isn’t it? All over the world, Catholics are waiting for smoke from Vatican City. Here in Philadelphia, area Catholics have been treated to the tradition of “blowing smoke” at least since the release of the first GJR in September 2005 and the crew at 222 N. 17th St. has refined such an activity to a fine art.

    Yes, indeed, Smoke does get in your eyes. Just ask the Philadelphia Catholic faithful.

  2. And let’s not forget that those priests in the prayer and penance program are free to come and go as they please.
    They “agree” to stay away from children and sign in and out…but they are free to roam, like our friends over at Vianney!
    Any priest that refuses to abide by the rule to stay away from children are cut loose…laicized…sent out into society to get a job as a teacher, coach, etc and no one knows who they are, or where they are!
    Hopefully, the window legislation will get somewhere so we can find out who these predators are once and for all!!

  3. It just makes me sick to think of the thousands , if not more, that have been laicized and are out there comitting all sorts of agregious sexual sins on children. I know of two priests(still wearing the Roman collar) that have fled the country(2012) and have bought their own orphanage in South America. What in God’s Holy Name do we do ?

    • @glorybe,
      This is just a suggestion but if you know of priests who have fled the country and bought orphanages, PLEASE spread that information and get organized. Children are children, country to country… The Internet is a very powerful tool. If you would share that information and what you know, I would be glad to look into it myself and organize further. Sincerely,- a survivor of clergy abuse

  4. I wish I knew , the information came from a retired priest that can’t stand me. His sister in law is one of my best friends.. It’s a Phoenix priest , Fr.Jack Spaulding and his friend, Fr.Loren Riebe. from Mexico(Chiapas),where he had an orphanage and was kicked out of Mexico for sexually abusing the children. . Fr. Jack took him in at St.Timothy’s in Tempe, Ariz. He was not supposed to do that but he defied the AD and they fled. It’s on Bishop accountability.org. We knew them both.The AD doesn’t’ know where they are or what they are doing.It came from the retired priest. You can’t. trust. any of them.

  5. Congratulations Susan and Kathy, you have now taken on the role of investigative journalism and you are doing a fantastic job. The analogy of the “smoke screen” is fabulous. All eyes are on the smoke stack in Rome, but, as you suggest, our eyes should be on the “smoke” here in this Archdiocese. Slowly but surely, the “walls will come trumbling down”. Jericho is another analogy. A couple of weeks ago, we suggested that St. Charles Seminary be closed and sold and this week’s Inquirer seem to say that this is seriously in the offing.
    We may not have been the causative agents but someone is listening.

    Please keep up your wonderful work.

  6. Does St. John Vianney accept patients who are private-pay or have third-party insurance like Aetna, Independence Blue Cross, etc.? Do they accept patients other than those in religious orders?

    • I believe it is predominantly Catholic clergy and religious but accepts clergy from other denominations as well.

  7. The reason I ask about the payment/reimbursement is that if there were third party monies involved (insurance, e.g.), then there would be oversight, accountability and the utilization review process, whereby the need for treatment, therapy and services would have to be justified and documented.

    In the instances of clergy, where orders and dioceses are paying for the treatment, how do we know what the particular services are, the planning for treatment, discharge, outpatient care, etc.? How do we know (or not know) that St. John Vianney is functioning in capacities, other than inpatient treatment for psychiatric disorders? Is it a partial-hospitalization program? Do they have outpatient programs in the community for those patients well enough to live outside the facility?

    • I believe there are outpatient services also offered. It seems because there are so few religious treatment centers left in the U.S that many come from out of state for treatment. I am not against treatment at all,I am against unsupervised privileges for patients in the inpatient hospital facility.

  8. What do you do if you have seen a priest name in bishopaccountability web site who has had a credible allegation of abuse to a minor made against him and is supposed to be living a life of jasonprayer and penance [that’s a joke] but is instead STILL celebrating Mass at a different church! I haven’t seen any pictures of this person, yet the name is spelled exactly the same, middle in. too.

    • Ask a lot of questions. It may be that he’s been moved or his status has changed. Ask questions in writing to the bishop of where he is staying (and carbon copy it to the bishop where the priest comes from and to the lead person where the accused priest is staying). Keep a copy of the letter for your records. Trust me on this!

      Ask them to respond to you promptly since you are concerned about the safety of children and want to take the next right steps to ensure their protection.

  9. Thank you for the quick response, however can you be sure that the Bishop can be trusted?

    • It’s not a question of trust. Typically, the statutes have passed on any allegation that has put a priest in the prayer and penance program vs. jail. Therefore, law enforcement can’t do anything. Sadly, we have to depend on the diocese to monitor these individuals. We have to hope they do what is right. That’s why reform from within is as important as legal reforms.

      That leaves making sure the archdiocesan investigator (if this is in Philadelphia), victims assistance office and the clergy are all copied on correspondence to the Archbishop’s office. The more the better. Less chance of coverup. Then, if it is the same person, we could certainly write about it on the blog.

    • Jason,
      I never trust a bishop. So, no, I’m certain the bishop can’t be trusted to do the right thing. The only way to make sure that happens is to make the bishop aware that you are willing to go to any lengths so that priest isn’t functioning in a capacity that would put children at risk.

      Whenever dealing with a bishop or priest,
      1. Everything in writing (or able to be saved, documented)
      2. Every correspondence has multiple viewers (everything sent to multiple people, even if blind carbon copy)
      3. Always request a response to your questions.
      4. Elude to media exposure or the willingness to talk about it to others.

      This is what they’ve taught people.

      As Susan has said, the statute has probably expired on this priest, so, it falls to the hierarchy to protect children and manage this man accused of sexual abuse. We all know how well they’ve done with this in the past, so really? It’s up to us.

      • Jason,
        Thank you for not looking the other way.

      • survivors wife..Yes I always copy multiple people on emails..multiple. Also not a bad idea to have local media check into it..it is not an accusation that this priest is the same one as on the BishopAccountability site..just an inquiry. An inquiry by the press never hurts.

  10. how could she say its not a question of trust? The bishops don’t exactly have a very good track record. I don’t trust any of them. I’m aware that this priest can’t be arrested by the way. Anyway, I will write these letters and hope that something can be done! Thanks for everyones input.

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