Three Philadelphia priests were removed from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as part of an ongoing sex abuse investigation. The three priests are just the latest priests to be removed from the church stemming from a 2011 grand jury’s report that led to the suspension of 26 other clergy members.
Reverends Joseph Gallagher and Mark Gasper were suspended from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as a result of a 2011 grand jury’s report, notes the Associated Press. The grand jury’s report was based on allegations that two priests and a teacher at St. Jerome’s Parish in Philadelphia sexually abused a 10-year-old boy while another priest at the school was accused of abusing a 14-year-old boy.
The grand jury’s presentment, or official presentation to the court, recommended criminal charges against the three priests, identified as Edward Avery, Charles Engelhardt and James Brennan, and the teacher, Bernard Shero. The grand jury also recommended filing criminal charges against Monsignor William J. Lynn, former secretary for the clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for his failure to properly investigate the sex abuse claims and allowing priests to continue serving in the church. Lynn was in charge of investigating sexual abuse claims from 1992 to 2004.
Lynn, 61, was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in June 2012 and was sentenced to three to six years in prison, reports the Washington Post.
In addition to investigating the sexual abuse of two children, the grand jury also made recommendations to reforming the church’s policies involving sexual abuse allegations and also singled out other priests in a section titled “Predator Priests Still In Ministry.”
Gallagher was among the priests named, and the grand jury’s report mentions 41 priests who had been accused of sexual abuse between 2006 and 2011 with the archdiocese only “credibly accusing” two of the priests. The grand jury cites problems with the church’s review process and finds that several priests had credible allegations that were dismissed by the church.
Gaspar was not named in the report but was suspended as part of the grand jury investigation. Monsignor Richard Powers was the third priest removed from the church, stemming from a priest who had been accused of sexual abuse. The incident occurred 40 years ago, and Powers was suspended in 2012, AP reports.
The statute of limitations has run out for most of the allegations, which means Gallagher and other priests may not serve jail time even if the claims are substantiated. Marci Hamilton, an attorney representing several individuals who claim to have been abused by Gallagher, said, “Gallagher belongs in prison, but because of the archdiocese's cover-up, the criminal statutes of limitations for these victims expired long ago.” One of Hamilton’s clients, Daniel Neill, identified as Ben in the grand jury report, committed suicide after the church failed to substantiate his allegation.