PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has many constituents to consider as he decides the fate of about two dozen priests suspended over child sex-abuse allegations.
The priests have been in limbo during an internal investigation that took more than a year. Their suspensions followed a second damning grand jury report on priest sexual-abuse in Philadelphia.
A person close to the process, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Chaput plans to announce the outcome of at least some of the investigations Friday. The person is not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
Chaput first discussed the matter with hundreds of Philadelphia priests summoned to a last-minute meeting Wednesday.
"I think he's smart, meeting with his priests, talking to them," said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University who has written a book on U.S. bishops. "Priests are one of the most important constituencies that a bishop has. He needs them to do almost anything in the diocese."
The church must show concern for victims of the worldwide abuse crisis, while also giving accused priests a fair shake, Reese said.
Chaput is also painfully aware of a related criminal trial under way nearby. Monsignor William J. Lynn, a former top aide at the archdiocese, is charged with child endangerment for his handling of abuse complaints from 1992 to 2004, mostly under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
The February 2011 grand jury report that led to Lynn's case also alleged that dozens of accused priests were still active in Philadelphia, despite a zero-tolerance policy among U.S. bishops. The accusations ranged from sexual abuse to inappropriate boundary issues.
They could be returned to their parishes if vindicated Friday or removed from active ministry if not. There are 1.5 million Catholics in the five-county archdiocese, and about 800 priests.
Chaput inherited the Philadelphia problem when he arrived from Denver in August.
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