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. ••EndFragment