HARRISBURG, Pa. (TheBlaze/AP) — Five parish priests have been permanently removed from ministry and two others were cleared to return to duties by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, the archdiocese announced Sunday.
The decision by Archbishop Charles Chaput followed a formal investigation into allegations of misconduct or sexual abuse.
Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput. (Image source: AP/Matt Rourke)
The church has not disclosed details of the allegations against the five priests, who were placed on administrative leave after a scathing grand jury report in February 2011.
Diocesan spokesman Ken Gavin said Sunday the announcements were made after Chaput met with the men over the past week. All seven remain priests.
Among the five is Rev. Michael A. Chapman, 58, a Philadelphia priest who was investigated and cleared by an archdiocesan review board last year before a new accuser came forward with child sexual abuse allegations that date back 30 years, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The second investigation was deemed substantiated, and information has been turned over to police.
Of the four other priests removed from ministry, the Rev. Stephen B. Perzan of St. Helena Parish in Philadelphia and the Rev. Peter J. Talocci of St. Patrick's in Malvern, Pa. faced sexual-abuse allegations that the review board said it could not substantiate, the Inquirer reported; church officials said they were removed from ministry for violations of "the standards of ministerial behavior."
The remaining two — the Rev. Mark E. Fernandes of St. Agnes Parish in Sellersville, Pa. and the Rev. Joseph M. Glatts of SS. Simon and Jude in West Chester, Pa. — faced no accusations of sexual misconduct but were removed from ministry after it was determined they also violated church standards, the Inquirer said.
Church officials said such violations range from making inappropriate comments to boundary violations, the Inquirer reported.
In a written statement, the archdiocese said it made counselors available for parishioners on Sunday. It said the five priests can appeal the decisions to the church hierarchy in Rome if they wish.
Two other priests — the Rev. Zachary W. Navit of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Doylestown, Pa. and the Rev. Francis J. Schlett, who retired from Our Lady of Grace in Penndel, Pa. in 2004 — were cleared to return to their positions after the review board said it could not substantiate allegations against them, the Inquirer said.
The Associated Press was unable to reach any of the seven for comment.
Over the past two years, Chaput has returned eight other priests to ministry and ruled nine were not fit for ministry. One priest died during an investigation and one case remains unresolved, although the archdiocese said law enforcement decided last month it would not press charges.
More from the Inquirer:
In 2009, a scathing grand jury report excoriated then-Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and other church leaders and accused them of an "immoral" cover-up, saying they protected predator priests for decades and allowed sexual assaults against children to go unpunished. Bevilacqua and top archdiocesan officials vigorously denied that and said the church was committed to ensuring the safety of children.
Two years later, a second grand jury accused church officials of continuing to fall short. In a stinging report, the grand jury said the archdiocese had failed to act on credible allegations of child sex abuse and other misconduct.
The panel recommended criminal charges against Msgr. William Lynn, then the archdiocese's secretary of clergy, and accused him of transferring some accused priests and letting others fall through the cracks. He was convicted of one count of child endangerment last year and sentenced to three to six years in prison.