PHILADELPHIA (CNA) — Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke highly of seven new members of the archdiocesan review board that makes recommendations in suspected abuse cases.
“These individuals, Catholic and non-Catholic, possess a broad range of professional competencies that are essential to conducting a review process that is equally thorough and just to all who may be involved,” Archbishop Chaput said in a Nov. 22 statement announcing the appointments.
“Non-clerical external advisers such as these are crucial to the process,” he noted, “as they provide a high level of expertise coupled with objective advice.”
“I am grateful to all of them for their willingness to serve on the archdiocesan review board and look forward to the unique perspective that each will bring to the table.”
New board members include retired Philadelphia Police Department Lt. Michael Boyle, formerly of the department’s Child Abuse Unit; Judge-elect Charles Ehrlich, previously of the city district attorney’s Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit; and veteran prosecutor Arnold Gordon.
The other additions are Janet Shaw Lemoine, an experienced victims’ advocate; Richmond Parsons, a law enforcement veteran now handling probation and parole; Laura Rogers, a former prosecutor with experience at the Navy and Justice Department; and Robert Spinelli, a specialist in tort litigation.
Anne Shenberger, a social worker who will continue serving on the 11-member board, told CNA/EWTN News that the panel was “made up of people with both knowledge and integrity” who would continue to be “open in our process” of handling allegations.
“What’s important is to have a range of skills on the review board,” Shenberger said, “so that all the different disciplines that touch on sexual abuse are represented and the board can have the best possible range of expertise when it’s deliberating on cases.”
She said the new appointments reflected “a normal ebb and flow of people deciding they wanted to move on” from serving on the committee. In keeping with the U.S. bishops’ Dallas Charter, the board reports to the archbishop on whether allegations can be substantiated and whether clergy are fit for ministry.
“We’ve had a number of people resign, and I think it was time to replenish the review board,” Shenberger observed.
In February 2011, six months before Archbishop Chaput’s appointment to the Philadelphia Archdiocese, a grand jury report charged that 37 local priests had credible allegations of abuse against them but were still in roles that brought them into contact with children.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia’s archbishop at the time of the report, placed 21 priests on administrative leave in response. In July 2011, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation the cardinal had submitted the year before upon reaching the age limit of 75.