PHILADELPHIA — Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has finalized three priests’ removal from archdiocesan ministry: one who faces a “substantiated” allegation of abuse in a 40-year-old incident and two priests who have been accused of sex abuse or other misconduct.
The archbishop ruled that retired priest Msgr. Richard Powers, Father Joseph Gallagher and Father Mark Gaspar are “unsuitable for ministry.”
“After reviewing all the facts, as well as recommendations from competent external authorities, I made the decisions I feel are right and just,” Archbishop Chaput said April 7 regarding Fathers Gallagher and Gaspar.
Archbishop Chaput’s decision was informed by the recommendation of the archdiocesan review board.
Priests named unsuitable for ministry may not exercise their public ministry, administer any of the sacraments, wear clerical dress or present themselves publicly as priests. They can appeal the disciplinary action to the Holy See.
The archdiocese said that Fathers Gallagher and Gaspar were removed for “substantiated violations” of standards of behavior for clergy.
The two priests had been among the 26 active diocesan clergy put on leave in March 2011 under Philadelphia’s then-archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali.
Cardinal Rigali’s action followed a February 2011 grand jury report on accused Philadelphia-area clergy still in roles that brought them into contact with children.
The grand jury said Father Gallagher was accused twice of fondling altar boys in the early 1980s at St. Mark’s Church in Bristol Township, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. One of his accusers, Daniel Neill — who committed suicide in 2009 — allegedly told his story to diocesan officials two years prior, in 2007, but they declined to act against the priest.
The nature of the accusation against Father Gaspar is not reported.
Msgr. Powers, 77, was removed over allegations he committed a sexual act with a 17-year-old girl on an overseas trip to Venezuela 40 years ago. The archdiocese said that the priest’s name was found on an internal document rediscovered in March 2012 in response to a subpoena. The priest was put on leave after the archdiocese turned the document over to the courts involved.
The Msgr. Powers case is not directly connected to cases of priests put on leave after the February 2011 report on the archdiocese’s handling of sex abuse, the archdiocese said.
The archdiocese said it announced the allegation against Msgr. Powers at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, where the priest retired in 2010 and maintained a residence. However, the archdiocese said it was not allowed to make a general public announcement because of a court-imposed gag order.
Last year, Archbishop Chaput made decisions regarding 15 priests put on administrative leave following the grand jury report. Eight priests were found suitable for ministry, and seven priests were found unsuitable. Another priest died before a full investigation could be conducted.
The archdiocese said that there are another seven administrative leave cases that are not being announced yet, due to “a variety of reasons.” Four cases require law enforcement agencies to release them, while three cases are currently under investigation by the archdiocese or are pending a final decision by Archbishop Chaput. All cases have been referred to the local district attorney.