Ex-Northeast priests removed from ministry

Two priests formerly con­nec­ted to North­east churches have been found “un­suit­able for min­istry,” pa­rish­ion­ers were told last week­end.

The an­nounce­ments of Arch­bish­op Charles Chaput’s de­cision to re­move the Rev. John Paul and the Rev. James Collins were made at Masses Sat­urday and Sunday at Our Lady of Cal­vary and St. Martha’s, both Far North­east par­ishes. The city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic arch­diocese had put both men on ad­min­is­trat­ive leave last year while the al­leg­a­tions were in­vest­ig­ated.

In the arch­dioces­an an­nounce­ment re­leased to the me­dia on Feb. 23, Chaput said there were sub­stan­ti­ated al­leg­a­tions against both men that each had sexu­ally ab­used a 17-year-old minor more than 40 years ago. The arch­diocese stressed that the men’s cases are not re­lated to each oth­er and are not re­lated to the cases of priests placed on ad­min­is­trat­ive leave fol­low­ing a 2011 Phil­adelphia grand jury re­port on sexu­al ab­use of minors by the city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic clergy.

Collins, 75, was or­dained in 1964. He re­tired from Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity early last year, and had resided at St. Martha’s on Academy Road be­fore he was put on leave in May. Paul, 67, was or­dained in 1972. He had been pas­tor of Our Lady of Cal­vary in Mill­brook for 13 years be­fore he resigned in Novem­ber. He was put on ad­min­is­trat­ive leave soon af­ter­ward.

When they were put on leave last year, they were for­bid­den to have pub­lic min­is­tries, wear cler­ic­al cloth­ing or present them­selves as priests while the arch­diocese in­vest­ig­ated them.

Paul had denied the al­leg­a­tions, the arch­diocese said last year.

Be­fore com­ing to Our Lady of Cal­vary in Mill­brook, Paul had served in sev­er­al sub­urb­an par­ishes and high schools, in­clud­ing Arch­bish­op Wood in Warmin­ster.

The arch­diocese said Paul’s case was re­ferred to the DA’s of­fice. Tasha Jamer­son, the DA’s spokes­wo­man, last year said she couldn’t com­ment on cases un­less charges are filed, but she ad­ded that the DA couldn’t file charges any­way since the al­leg­a­tions are 45-years old and the stat­ute of lim­it­a­tions would have run out. 

Ditto for Collins. Again, since the al­leg­a­tions were that crimes were com­mit­ted more than four dec­ades ago, Jamer­son said last year, no charges could be filed.

Be­fore re­tir­ing, Collins was a full­time mem­ber of Holy Fam­ily’s Re­li­gious Stud­ies De­part­ment, the uni­versity stated last year. 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.

Ac­cord­ing to the arch­diocese, Collins and Paul have the right to ap­peal Chaput’s de­cisions to the Vat­ic­an.

If they don’t ap­peal or if their ap­peals don’t suc­ceed, they could be “re­moved from the cler­ic­al state,” the arch­diocese con­tin­ued, or they could live lives of pray­er and pen­ance.

Paul’s and Collins’s cases were re­ferred to au­thor­it­ies and then in­vest­ig­ated by the Arch­dioces­an Pro­fes­sion­al Re­spons­ib­il­ity, which made re­com­mend­a­tions to the arch­bish­op.

Ac­cord­ing to church law, arch­dioces­an spokes­man Ken Gav­in ex­plained last year, the arch­diocese is re­quired to con­tin­ue to provide be­ne­fits to priests un­less they are re­moved from their cler­ic­al states by the Vat­ic­an. 

Collins and Paul cur­rently live in private res­id­ences, Gav­in stated Tues­day. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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