A 74-year-old priest was put on administrative leave following an allegation he molested a minor more than 40 years ago, Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic archdiocese announced Sunday.
In a news release, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said the archdiocese received one sexual misconduct allegation against the Rev. James J. Collins, who retired from Holy Family University earlier this year.
The news release didn’t say where or exactly when the alleged abuse took place, but said his leave is not connected to the cases of priests placed on administrative leave following the February 2011 Grand Jury Report. Kenneth Gavin, the archdiocese’s director of communications, said the allegation of abuse was received earlier this month and immediately reported to authorities.
“Consistent with policy and in the interest of fairness and privacy to the person making the allegation and the accused individual, I am not able to provide more specific information about the allegation itself,” Gavin stated in an email to the Northeast Times on Tuesday.
While on administrative leave, Collins is not permitted to exercise his public ministry pending the outcome of an investigation, the archdiocese stated.
Before retiring, Collins was a full-time member of Holy Family’s Religious Studies Department, the university stated Tuesday.
“His service to the university included moderating an honor society for Catholic colleges and universities. He is a renowned expert on Italian poet Dante Alighieri,” Holy Family stated in an email. “His service to Holy Family predates President Sister Francesca Onley’s tenure. There were never any allegations of abuse made or complaints filed against Father James J. Collins at any time in the 32 years she has been president.”
Parishioners of St. Martha parish, where Collins had been residing, were informed of the archbishop’s decision. The archdiocese said Collins resided at the Academy Road parish, but he had no formal duties there, did not assist at Masses or make visits to the school. The archdiocese also informed Holy Family University, where Collins had been on the faculty since 1976.
According to the archdiocese, Collins was ordained in 1964. He served in several parishes and schools, including Roman Catholic High School, Cardinal Dougherty High School and St. Christopher parish in Somerton.
The District Attorney’s office was informed of the allegation against Collins, spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson confirmed Tuesday morning.
“The Archdiocese notified us of the charges,” Jamerson wrote in an email, “but since this was 40 years ago, the statute of limits has run out and criminally we can’t prosecute.” ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org