Philadelphia Archbishop Resigns Amid Sex Abuse Scandal


The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is about to get a new leader: the Rev. Charles J. Chaput of Denver will replace Cardinal Justin Rigali, who was engulfed five months ago in a sex abuse scandal, although he claims that his resignation had nothing to do with the allegations that he protected priests who were abusing children.

Earlier this year, a Philadelphia grand jury charged four priests and a parochial schoolteacher with raping boys under their care.  The scandal radiated out, as the grand jury charged that as many as 37 priests remained in office despite allegations of abuse.  One member of the church hierarchy was charged with hiding the abuse, and a larger cover-up was suspected.

These claims were particularly alarming in light of the fact that American bishops adopted strong reforms earlier in the decade, including a zero-tolerance policy for priests convicted of abusing children, lay committees to deal with infractions and regulations for reporting of abuse allegations to higher authorities.  The Philadelphia case showed that these reforms may not have done much good in combating sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

“The story that the Catholic bishops have tried to tell is that, yes, the sex abuse crisis is terrible, but it’s in the past,” CNN analyst John Allen said. “They say they’ve been called into account and cleaned up their act. Some have even argued that the church has become a social model for protecting children from abuse.”

Many are increasingly suspicious that the Church is attempting to protect itself, rather than stamping out unethical acts among its clergy.  Other bishops are angry because they feel that their credibility is being undermined by the unfolding drama in Philadelphia.  The scandal was clearly draining for Rigali, who, according to NPR, “sounded almost relieved” when he announced his resignation.

“It is a formidable task to be a bishop. You ought to try it,” he said.

His successor will certainly have a lot to handle, although as one of the most outspoken and politically conservative Catholic leaders in the country, Chaput is no stranger to controversy.  As religion scholar Matthew Schmalz put it: “Archbishop Chaput does have experience dealing with messes.”

According to the New York Times, however, Chaput is not popular among advocates for sexual abuse victims.  ”They point out that he fought hard against legislation in Colorado that would have extended the statute of limitations for people who say they were sexually abused to sue the church,” writes Laurie Goodstein.  Chaput defended himself by saying that the Catholic Church alone did not cause the abuse, and that other institutions, like public schools, were also responsible.

Chaput may have been appointed to this position to improve the Catholic Church’s standing in the community while cracking down on any abuse.  But let’s hope he remembers that the victims of sexual abuse need to be protected too, as well as the thousands of Catholic community members who have undoubtedly been shocked and traumatized by the abuse within their houses of worship.  Religious leaders are deeply trusted figures, and it’s important for Chaput to realize that he is there to heal a community, not protect a hierarchy.

Related Stories:

The Sex Abuse Scandal and the Church That Did Not Know Right From Wrong

Bishops’ Report on Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal Puts the Blame on Woodstock

Vatican Announces Symposium & Online Database to Prevent Sex Abuse by Priests

Photo from Sean Dorn via Wikimedia Commons.

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The Harwoods
Malcolm P.4 years ago

The Pedophile Priests know there is no God and no afterlife so they do what they do, knowing there will be no punishment, now or later.

Janine H.
Janine H.4 years ago

I am very disappointed about the churches. Catholic, Protestant, etc. which one does not have any blood on their hands, any guilt? In the past they persuaded, tortured and killed people. And it always seemed to happen that someone of a church uses his power to do something terrible to a child, to a woman, to a novice.
How can these churches say that they know God's words and wishes, that they follow the friendly and forgiving Jesus Christ? They ignore it, they trample on it. Their sins agains people of all ages, are sins against life, and they are sins against God.

Rot in hell, if there is one

Brian P.
.4 years ago

@Camila K. - I would like to add another perspective for consideration


The type of "love" advocated by many religions tends to be of a conditional nature and therefore cannot be considered a 'true' love which is always unconditional.

Judy B.
Judy B.4 years ago

My heart goes out to all who have been abused by priests but I thought this site was Care2 . Sometimes it seems there is not alot of care in some of the comments. Just bitterness. One human being can not be blamed for all the mistakes of any church or organization. We as people can try to encourage and comfort any who we may come in contact whether it be strangers, family or friends. Let us do our part 2Care and not make situations like this worse but more hopeful for those that are dealing with such a terrible thing.

Edward Allan
Edward Allan4 years ago

Sorry, Ruth M.

It's true that lots of organizations, religious and otherwise, have people who are sexual abusers. However, to the best of my knowledge, the Roman Catholic Church is the ONLY organization that knowingly condones the ongoing involvement of sexual abusers with significant numbers of prospective victims. (I exclude, of course, pimps and other people who make trafficking of persons for sexual purposes their vocation/avocation/occupation. But among the major differences, contributions to such as these are not tax-deductible.)

myra d.
myra d.4 years ago

Not acceptable. No excuses. They should all have their status and rights taken away and sent directly to the courts for sentencing. This is sickening.

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson4 years ago

The REAL problem isn't that children are abused by Catholic priests( altho GOD KNOWS THAT'S a HUGE PROBLEM) the WORST problem is that they are allowed to get away with it AND to CONTINUE doing it.The Church has done NOTHING to PUT A STOP TO IT. Since the Church can't deal with their employees THE LAW needs to .When the head of the world bank was accused of rape did they let the bank handle it? SEX CRIMES are legal matters. Molestation of children by a priest in a church is a SEX CRIME.Since raping the parishners is NOT part of the priest's job discription, he should recieve no more "Courtesy" than a rapist in the alley.We are protecting the wrong people. Altho there will be a special HELL for priests who rape, the VICTIMS should recieve the sympathy and the FULL POWER OF THE LAW.The new Cardinal should turn over all investigations and files to the District Attorney who should do ALL further investigation AND PROSECUTION.

Jeffrey Clark
Jeffrey Clark4 years ago

Or maybe there's no God. Hmmm...

Craig G.
Craig Gosling4 years ago

If God wanted to stop priest pedophilia He would. Apparently He doesn't care.