Posted: November 12, 2013
By Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, Inquirer Staff Writer
A pastor of a Northeast Philadelphia Catholic church who was accused of sexually abusing children 45 years ago – and not charged with any offenses after a recent investigation into the allegations – has resigned, according to parish officials.
The Rev. John P. Paul, pastor of Our Lady of Calvary since June 2000, has moved out of the parish rectory, according to a memo posted on the parish school’s website.
“As a result of the extreme emotional duress experienced by Father Paul while the allegations were being investigated, and out of heartfelt concern for the families of OLC, Father Paul voluntarily resigned as Pastor so that the best interest of the parish could be served,” said the memo, signed by Sister Mildred Chesnavage and Jeanne Costello, school administrators.
Paul’s resignation also was announced at each Mass at the Knights Road church over the weekend.
Paul, 67, is not retiring at the Villa St. Joseph priest residence in Darby, according to Kenneth A. Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The archdiocese will continue to monitor him while an internal investigation seeks to determine whether he is suitable to continue serving as a priest, Gavin said.
Paul was ordained in 1972. Two allegations against him accuse of him of sexually abusing minors when he was at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary studying to become a priest, Gavin said.
The archdiocese was made aware of the accusations against Paul earlier this year and immediately alerted law-enforcement officials, who, after investigating, declined to file charges against him, according to the church memo.
“These allegations involved no member of OLC either 45 years ago or since,” said the memo, which also asserted that the parish was and “continues to be a safe and welcoming environment.”
Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams, said the office does not comment on investigations unless charges are filed. In this case, if the sexual-abuse allegations are from 45 years ago, the statute of limitations has run out, Jamerson said.
After the allegations surfaced this year, the archdiocese allowed Paul to remain at the parish with restrictions that prohibited him from having unsupervised contact with minors, Gavin said.
The archdiocese has assigned the Rev. John Babowitch, pastor of the St. Barnabas Parish in Southwest Philadelphia, to be Our Lady of Calvary’s new pastor effective Dec. 2.
NE Philadelphia pastor resigns due to stress from allegations
11 November 2013
Father John Paul announced his resignation as pastor of Our Lady of Calvary Parish in Philadelphia Sunday, Nov. 10, citing in the church bulletin a decline in his “physical and spiritual health” as a result of allegations of past misconduct.
Father Paul, 67 and ordained in 1972, had been pastor of the Northeast Philadelphia parish since 2000.
He had been the subject of allegations made against him early this year accusing him of sexually abusing minors more than 40 years ago when he was a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, according to a statement by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Although Father Paul denied the allegations, as a matter of archdiocesan policy they were reported to law enforcement. After review the Philadelphia district attorney declined to press charges. The archdiocese then began its own investigation that has not concluded.
Father Paul remained in ministry at the parish since that time in a restricted capacity “in that he had no unsupervised contact with minors,” the archdiocesan statement read. “Appropriate notification of his restrictions was made to pertinent parties and a monitoring and support plan was implemented and followed.”
The priest’s case was considered by the Archdiocesan Review Board, the vicar for clergy, the archdiocesan director of investigations, the director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection and Archbishop Charles Chaput.
In his letter in the parish bulletin, Father Paul said his resignation was best for himself and the parish.
“Basically, I am tired and exhausted and I need renewal for myself. I have been pastor for 13 years and I feel proud of our parish – the school, the renovations, the new ministries – much has been accomplished. Our Lady of Calvary Parish is in need of new leadership … with new vision and enthusiasm.”
Archbishop Chaput has appointed Father John F. Babowitch, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Southwest Philadelphia, as Our Lady of Calvary’s new pastor beginning Dec. 2.
Father Paul indicated no immediate plans but said he intended to rest and pray. Pending archdiocesan approval, he said he wished to “take a sabbatical for prayer, study and service as allowed.”
He hoped to study the spirituality of Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Merton, take a retreat to Assisi, Italy, and work in a mission in Malawi, Africa.
Leaders of Our Lady of Calvary School posted a letter on the school’s website that said the allegations of sexual abuse “involved no member of OLC either 45 years ago or since,” said Holy Family Sister Mildred Chesnavage, principal, and Jeanne Costello, vice principal.
They cited “the extreme emotional duress experienced by Father Paul while the allegations were being investigated” as reasons for his resignation.
Father Paul’s message expressed his thanks for “my fellow priests, our secretaries and maintenance staff, our school administrators and teachers for their loyalty and support. Please pray for me as I will pray for you.”
The archdiocese said that “in the interest of transparency” it shared information about Father Paul’s resignation with parishioners at weekend Masses and provided counselors for anyone who wished to express their thoughts.
The statement reiterated that “the safety and well-being of our children and young people is of the utmost concern to the Archdiocese.”
As in past cases, the archdiocese stresses that anyone wishing to make a report of any allegation of sexual abuse should contact a local law enforcement agency and/or the archdiocesan Office of Investigations at 1-888-930-9010. Those wishing to report a violation of the archdiocesan “Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries” may also contact the archdiocesan Office of Investigations.
The archdiocese offers support to victims of sexual violence through the Victim Assistance Office of the archdiocese at 1-888-800-8780.
Parishioners React To Priest Resignation
Posted: Nov 10, 2013 9:53 PM EST Updated: Nov 10, 2013 10:08 PM EST
Michelle Armstrong attended regular Sunday Night Mass at Our Lady Of Calvary Parish in Northeast Philadelphia not expecting to hear it’s leader of 13 years, Father John Paul resigned amid child sexual abuse allegations.
“I haven’t heard anything through the grapevine so this really surprised me,” Armstrong said.
She got the word from church leaders who say the allegations date back more than 40 years…during father Paul’s time in seminary and it took time for the news to sink in.
“It was quiet. It was solemn. People had time to kind of grieve” Armstrong said.
The Archdioceses Of Philadelphia says it learned of the accusations earlier this year and allowed Paul to stay at the parish under a watchful eye.
Officials say he was later banned from having unsupervised contact with minors but church officials say it was his choice to leave out of emotional stress caused by the investigation.
“Being that he resigned his position I think that’s a good thing. It shows that he’s interested in getting help for himself if that’s what he needs, if he needs all the time to receive that. It’s a good thing that he’s no longer pastor at the church,” church member Marta Vazquez said.
Church leaders say none of the alleged victims were ever members of this parish, but those we talked with want to see sweeping change in a scandal still hitting too close to home.
“My prayers are with our new Pope that he can be a lot more diligent in getting to the bottom of these allegations and making our church what it should be.” Armstrong said.
Calvary pastor resigns after molestation allegations probed
10 November 2013
Parishioners of Our Lady of Calvary Roman Catholic Church in the Far Northeast were informed at Masses today that their pastor, the Rev. John Paul, had resigned the post he had held for 13 years. Earlier last week, an announcement of the priest’s decision to leave, following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor 45 years ago, was posted on the parish school’s website. (See http://userweb.nni.com/OLC/ and click on “notes from the principal” on the left.)
According to the school’s posting, allegations were made earlier this year and were reported to authorities, who investigated and declined to prosecute the priest.
The website didn’t specify what the allegations were other than they involved sexual abuse of minors.
“We don’t comment on cases unless charges are filed,” said Tasha Jamerson, the district attorney’s spokeswoman. That being said, she added, given that the allegations are 45 years old, the DA wouldn’t have been able to prosecute anyway because the statute of limitations would have run out.
The school website posting included the comment that the allegations against Paul did not involve anybody in Our Lady of Calvary parish “45 years ago or since.”
The posting stated Paul voluntarily resigned as pastor “so the best interest of the parish could be served.”
The archdiocese appointed “Father John Babowitch as our new pastor, and he will be arriving on Dec. 2,” the posting concluded. ••