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Philadelphia Archdiocese Dismisses Priests

Feb 23, 2002 | AP The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has dismissed several priests after a review of records dating back 50 years found "credible evidence" that 35 priests had committed sexual abuse against children.

About 50 children were victims, diocesan spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said Friday.

The investigation was prompted by a sex-abuse scandal at the Archdiocese of Boston, where church leaders admitted they knew about molestation allegations against a priest but did little to stop him.

There have been no allegations against any Philadelphia diocesan priest in the last three years, Rossi said.

Rossi could not say how many of the 35 names had been given to police when the allegations were made. She said the archdiocese followed state law.

The archdiocese will not turn over the names of the priests now because the statute of limitations has expired in all the cases, she said, adding that most allegations involved one victim.

"We will follow the letter of the law 100%, but we are not going to go back and release the names of priests from years ago. We don't see any good that would come from that, for either the victim or the priest," Rossi said.

Some of the Philadelphia priests involved were shuttled from parish to parish a practice stopped in the early 1980s, Rossi said. She did not know how many priests were dealt with in that manner.

In the past, some priests facing credible allegations of abuse have been placed in a "limited ministry" essentially a closely supervised administrative position that did not involve contact with children, Rossi said.

There are about 800 diocesan priests in the archdiocese, which serves about 1.5 million Roman Catholics. Since 1950, about 2,100 priests have served the archdiocese.

During the 1990s, the archdiocese paid about $200,000 to settle a handful of abuse cases.

In Boston, former priest John Geoghan, who was accused of molesting 130 boys over the past three decades, was sentenced Thursday to nine to 10 years imprisonment for groping a boy in a swimming pool. Geoghan awaits trial in two more cases and faces more than 80 lawsuits.

The Archdiocese of Boston said Friday that it had relieved another priest of his duties because of an allegation that he sexually abused a minor more than 20 years ago.

In recent weeks, Cardinal Bernard Law has given prosecutors the names of more than 80 active and former priests accused of abuse over the past four decades.

"The tragic situation in Boston gives the church great concern and great pause," Rossi said. "Sadly, there is a ripple effect. The faith of many good Catholics becomes adversely affected; the morale of many good, virtuous priests is also affected."

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