PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Three more priests were permanently removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Sunday, including one whose accuser killed himself after his allegation was dismissed by church officials.
The Revs. Joseph Gallagher and Mark Gaspar were suspended following a scathing 2011 grand jury report that ultimately led to the landmark conviction of a high-ranking archdiocese official on child endangerment charges. Two other priests and a Catholic school teacher were also convicted.
The February 2011 grand jury report prominently named Gallagher as a priest who remained in ministry despite apparently credible allegations of abuse. The grand jury said the archdiocese had found the allegation against him unsubstantiated despite the accuser's "obvious credibility."
"Our only problem is that it took so long," Marci Hamilton, the attorney for the family of Daniel Neill, said Sunday. Neill committed suicide in 2009, less than a year after being told his allegation of couldn't be substantiated.
Hamilton, who also represents two others who claim to have been abused by Gallagher, said the archdiocese's failure to act means Gallagher will never face criminal charges.
"Gallagher belongs in prison, but because of the Archdiocese's cover up, the criminal statutes of limitations for these victims expired long ago," she said.
In a statement, Archbishop Charles Chaput said he made the decisions he felt were "right and just" after the allegations against Gaspar and Gallagher were investigated and reviewed by an archdiocese board.
"The counsel provided by these experts, who have devoted their careers to combatting sexual abuse, is key to this work," he said. "I'm grateful for their efforts."
A third priest, Monsignor Richard Powers, was not among the priests suspended following the grand jury investigation. The archdiocese said he was suspended last year after his name surfaced on a list of priests previously accused of sexual abuse. All the other priests on that list had either died, been removed from ministry or were "living a life of prayer and penance" with the exception of Powers, the archdiocese said.
The allegation against Powers involved an incident that happened about 40 years ago outside the archdiocese, church officials said.
Powers, 77, declined to discuss his removal from ministry or the allegations when reached by phone Sunday by The Associated Press. No listed phone number could be found for Gallagher, 78. A phone message for a listing for Gaspar, 43, was not immediately returned.
All three men can appeal their cases to the Vatican.
The grand jury report led to charges against Monsignor William Lynn and three others. Lynn, the longtime secretary of clergy for the archdiocese, is serving three to six years in prison for his role transferring an admitted pedophile priest to the accuser's northeast Philadelphia parish. One of the priests pleaded guilty while the other priest and the teacher were convicted at trial.
Twenty-six priests were placed on leave following the grand jury's report. Ten of those cases have now been found to involve substantiated allegations of abuse. One priest was arrested and another died before a full investigation could be completed.
Seven cases are still pending, the archdiocese said.