The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced yesterday that Fr Christopher Lucas has been found unsuitable for ministry due to a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse. The abuse was alleged to have been perpetrated by Fr Lucas when he was a minor and before his ordination to the priesthhood.
Diocesan Deja Vu
The press release from the Archdiocese states that the allegation was received in the fall of 2018. During the past year that Fr Lucas was secretly under investigation for sex abuse, he was the school minister at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girl’s High School. He resided at St John the Baptist Parish in Manayunk.
As Archbishop Chaput’s days in Philadelphia come to an end shortly with his resignation upon his 75th birthday, part of his legacy will be that he knowingly exposed children and young people in the Archdiocese to priests under investigation for child sex abuse. Just as Fr John Meyers was left in ministry in 2018 at the Malvern Retreat House for seven months while under investigation, Fr Lucas was with children and young people for almost an entire year while secretly under investigation. He actually had double duty of being a school minister and residing at a parish. Double duty equals double danger.
Charter Changes: Children Shortchanged
In 2016, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was revised and an entire section entitled Initial Review was deleted from the Charter. This change to the Charter would have to have been approved by Archbishop Chaput. The Initial Review involved policy on how the Archdiocese Review Board would be informed of an allegation and first steps that would take place in an investigation. Of critical importance was the policy that the Review Board would advise Archbishop Chaput whether the interim actions recommended by the Vicar for Clergy, the Director of OCYP, and the Director of Investigations were appropriate to provide for the safety of children
The Review Board is no longer appraised of the recommendations made by this trio of Archdiocesan staff, therefore they make no recommendation to Chaput as to the safety of children during an investigation. It would seem that this missing step would be important as maybe with the Review Board involved in decision making, someone with a professional background, ounce of common sense, or a conscience, would speak up and explain that parents are the only ones who should be making safety decisions for their children. Instead, Msgr Daniel Sullivan, Leslie Davila OCYP, John Delaney Delegate of Investigations, and Archbishop Chaput make recommendations and decisions as to if the children of the Archdiocese will be exposed to a possibly dangerous person. Do you know these people who are making safety recommendations for your child?
Message Sent and Received
I had the chance to speak with young people in recent months about the practice of the Archdiocese allowing priests to stay in ministry with access to kids while secretly under investigation for child sex abuse. This practice differs from many other dioceses that place priests on administrative leave during an investigation for the safety of children and transparency to laity.
While the Archdiocese is currently examining the reasons why Church attendance has dropped so low and parishes may need to close, many young people simply no longer feel safe in the Church. No one at the Archdiocese seems to take the kids into consideration in their decision making. I have heard from young people about the message sent to them when the Archdiocese put them in a situation with a possibly dangerous priest, only to find out of the exposure in an Archdiocese press release when an investigation was completed. They did not matter, they do not matter.
Maybe the successor of Archbishop Chaput will improve child protection in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In the eight years that we have been working on child protection issues in the Archdiocese, this last year has absolutely shown us that things seem to be getting worse rather than better.
In the meantime the Archdiocese will continue to put all their efforts into making sure that the dangerous lunch mom volunteers have their background clearances in check, while the priest at the parish might be under investigation for child sex abuse. Not that we would know about the investigation.