By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia has cleared a priest accused of sexually abusing minors and let him remain in the clergy as it wrapped up an internal review of 26 priests put on leave after a 2011 grand jury report of abuse claims.
Following a church investigation, Archbishop Charles Chaput deemed Monsignor Joseph Logrip, 67, "suitable for ministry" following "unsubstantiated allegations" of abuse of minors more than 20 years ago, the archdiocese said in a statement.
The decision means Logrip can continue his work.
Of the other 25 priests evaluated following the grand jury report, the archdiocese found 14 "unsuitable for ministry," 10 "suitable" and one has died. Priests deemed unsuitable can have no public ministry, administer sacraments, wear clerical garb or present themselves as priests.
Even as it completed its internal review, the archdiocese still faces 18 civil lawsuits from people who say they were victims of sexual abuse by priests.
Marci Hamilton, part of a legal team representing 16 of the civil plaintiffs, she said she expects the first of the cases to go to trial this fall. She criticized the archdiocese for not revealing publicly the details of its review.
"They are not going to release the files, they are not going to release the documents that support their conclusions," she said. "It is yet another example of a lack of public accountability."
The archdiocese said in its statement on Sunday that it handled all 26 reviews the same way, by submitting the cases to prosecutors and following up with a church investigation by a special team into cases in which district attorneys opted not to pursue criminal charges.
The sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic church was catapulted into public view in 2002 in Boston when media began to report on how cases of abuse were systematically covered up and abusive priests shuttled from parish to parish rather than handed over to civil authorities.
Settlements related to the scandal have cost the U.S. church some $3 billion.
In Philadelphia, indictments went as high as Monsignor William Lynn, who was the secretary of the clergy during much of the decades covered by the grand jury report.
He was convicted of one count of endangering the welfare of child, and served 18 months in prison before his conviction was overturned by the state Superior Court. That ruling has now been appealed to the State Supreme Court.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)