The NY Times reports that in a "major reversal," the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that it had placed 21 priests on administrative leave from active ministry in connection with credible charges that they had sexually abused minors.
According to the Times: "The announcement Tuesday was a major embarrassment for Cardinal Rigali, who, in response to the grand jury report, had initially said that there were no priests in active ministry 'who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them.'"
The suspensions follow an initial examination of files "looking at both the substance of allegations and the process by which those allegations were reviewed," according to the archdiocese, which said a "thorough independent investigation" will follow the suspensions.
Cardinal Rigali said, "I want to be clear: These administrative leaves are interim measures. They are not in any way final determinations or judgments.
"I know that for many people their trust in the Church has been shaken," Cardinal Rigali said. "I pray that the efforts of the Archdiocese to address these cases of concern and to re-evaluate our way of handling allegations will help rebuild that trust in truth and justice."
Cardinal Rigali said, "These have been difficult weeks since the release of the Grand Jury Report: difficult most of all for victims of sexual abuse, but also for all Catholics and for everyone in our community.
"As we strive to move forward today," Cardinal Rigali added, "I wish to express again my sorrow for the sexual abuse of minors committed by any members of the Church, especially clergy. I am truly sorry for the harm done to the victims of sexual abuse, as well as to the members of our community who suffer as a result of this great evil and crime."
The Grand Jury Report identified 37 cases of concern. In addition to the 21 announced today, three priests were placed on administrative leave after the report was released in February. Five others would have been subject to administrative leave. One who was already on leave and two who are incapacitated have not been in active ministry. Two others no longer serve in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and, as both are members of a Religious Order, the Archdiocese has notified the Superiors of their Religious Orders and the Bishops of the Dioceses where they are residing.
The remaining eight priests will not be subject to administrative leave. According to the archdiocese, the initial independent examination of these cases found no further investigation is warranted. The cases of those on administrative leave involve a range from allegations of sexual abuse of a minor to boundary issues with minors.
Cardinal Rigali stated, "Since 2005, the Archdiocese has worked very hard and we believed that we were on the right path, making significant progress in the protection of children and in the investigation and handling of abuse allegations. In fact, the present investigation of sexual abuse began as a result of reports from the Archdiocese to the District Attorney's Office. The 2011 Grand Jury Report, however, presented us with serious concerns that demand a decisive response."