Northeast Times

Accused priest will return to ministry

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Phil­adelphia Arch­bish­op Charles Chaput has de­cided a 72-year-old priest ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a teen­age girl in the 1960s is fit to re­turn to min­istry.

The Rev. Joseph Di­Gregorio, who was as­signed to St. Mar­tin of Tours in Ox­ford Circle as re­cently as 2010, had been put on leave in 2011 after sexu­al mis­con­duct al­leg­a­tions sur­faced in a Phil­adelphia grand jury re­port that year.

The city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic arch­diocese an­nounced Monday af­ter­noon that, based on re­ports by a team led by former pro­sec­utor Gina Maisto Smith, the arch­bish­op de­cided there is “com­pel­ling evid­ence” that Di­Gregorio is suit­able for min­istry. An earli­er in­vest­ig­a­tion had led to a con­clu­sion that the priest had vi­ol­ated the arch­dioces­an “Stand­ard of Min­is­teri­al Be­ha­vi­ors and Bound­ar­ies.”

The 2011 grand jury re­por­ted a wo­man had told the arch­diocese in 2005 that, in 1967 or ’68, when she was 16, Di­Gregorio had “mo­les­ted her on four oc­ca­sions – kiss­ing her, re­mov­ing her bra, ly­ing on top of her and fond­ling her breasts.” The ab­use al­legedly oc­curred in the rect­ory of Our Lady of Loreto par­ish in South­w­est Phil­adelphia and in the priest’s car.

The team of child-ab­use ex­perts Smith leads stated, “there have been no com­plaints about Fath­er Di­Gregorio in more than 40 years, there is no evid­ence that he poses a danger to chil­dren, and there is no in­dic­a­tion he had or would en­gage in a pat­tern of be­ha­vi­or that would ne­ces­sit­ate his re­mov­al from min­istry,” ac­cord­ing to the arch­diocese.

The arch­bish­op’s de­cision was im­me­di­ately — and sar­castic­ally — con­demned by the Sur­viv­ors Net­work of those Ab­used by Priests.

“Ap­par­ently, Chaput has uni­lat­er­ally re­vised the Amer­ic­an bish­ops’ child sex ab­use policy. For years, it of­fi­cially was ‘one strike and you’re out.’ Now, in Philly at least, it’s be­come ‘one strike and you’re in.’ Chaput is put­ting Fath­er Joseph Di­Gregorio back on the job, in part, be­cause “no oth­er com­plaints were re­por­ted,” SNAP stated in a news re­lease Monday.

Chaput’s de­cision was an­nounced over the week­end at Stella Mar­is par­ish and St. Mar­tin of Tours par­ish.

Di­Gregorio, who was or­dained in 1966, had been as­signed to many Great­er Phil­adelphia par­ishes dur­ing his ca­reer and was a U.S. Army chap­lain from 1988 to 2005. He served at St. Mar­tin of Tours from 2005 to ’10. ••

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You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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