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19 Jul

Philadelphia archbishop resigns amid sex scandal

Added On July 19, 2011

Pope accepts resignation of Philadelphia archbishop amid sex scandal

The McGlynn: I wonder if the Vatican has already purchased his airfare to Rome?

The Archbishop of Philadelphia announces his replacement after resigning amid claims of sexual abuse against children.

Pope accepts resignation of Philadelphia archbishop amid sex scandal

By the CNN Wire Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) –The archbishop of Philadelphia has resigned just months after a Philadelphia grand jury report accused the archdiocese of failing to investigate claims of sexual abuse by priests against children.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Cardinal Justin Rigali as the Philadelphia archbishop, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The Vatican cited Rigali’s age as the reason. Canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation from the pastoral governance of their diocese on their 75th birthday, which Rigali did in April 2010.

The archdiocese plans to announce Tuesday that the pope has appointed Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver to succeed Rigali, it said in a statement.

Chaput was ordained a priest in 1970. He became a bishop at the age of 43 and has served as archbishop of Denver since 1997. Chaput, a member of the Prairie Band Potowatami Tribe, is the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States and the first Native American archbishop.

The move comes five months after a Philadelphia grand jury report accused the archdiocese of not investigating claims that priests sexually abused children.

The grand jury report led to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office criminally charging four Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care. A former high-ranking archdiocese official was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children.

All five pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse and conspiracy charges in April. Edward Avery and Charles Engelhardt were charged with assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia from 1998 to 1999. Bernard Shero, a teacher in the school, is charged with assaulting the same boy there in 2000. Avery was defrocked in 2006. James Brennan, another priest, is accused of assaulting a different boy, a 14 year old, in 1996.

Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the secretary for clergy under then-Philadelphia Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the alleged assaults.

From 1992 until 2004, Lynn was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children.

The grand jury found that Lynn, 60, endangered children, including the victims in these most recent cases, by knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children.

In addition to the charges, the grand jury alleged that as many as 37 priests remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse. Rigali had initially challenged that claim, but eventually 29 of them were placed on administrative leave and no further investigation was warranted on the remaining eight.

“I want to be clear: These administrative leaves are interim measures. They are not in any way final determinations or judgments,” Rigali said in a statement in March.

In the months following the release of the grand jury report, Rigali, 76, who succeeded Bevilacqua in 2003, was named in several civil suits against the Philadelphia Archdiocese alleging sexual abuse.

This year’s grand jury report is the city’s second issued regarding priests’ alleged sexual abuse in Philadelphia. The first grand jury report was released in 2003. A gag order imposed by a Philadelphia judge in the case remains in effect, barring all parties involved in the criminal case from talking to the media.

–CNN’s Sarah Hoye and Hada Messia contributed to this report.

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