Philadelphia Suspends 21 Priests

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. The announcement on March 8 represented an embarrassing turnaround for Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, who had said in response to a devastating grand jury report in February 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. “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.”

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