HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Five parish priests have been permanently removed from ministry and two others were cleared to return to duties by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, the archdiocese announced on Sunday.
The decision by Archbishop Charles Chaput followed a formal investigation into allegations of misconduct or sexual abuse.
The church has not disclosed details of the allegations against the five priests, who were placed on administrative leave after a scathing grand jury report in February 2011.
Diocesan spokesman Ken Gavin said Sunday the announcements were made after Chaput met with the men over the past week. All seven remain priests.
Among the five is Rev. Michael A. Chapman, 58, a Philadelphia priest who was investigated and cleared by an archdiocesan review board last year before a new accuser came forward with child sexual abuse allegations that The Philadelphia Inquirer reported (http://bit.ly/IXJk7p) date back 30 years. The second investigation was deemed substantiated, and information has been turned over to police.
The other four were at churches in Philadelphia, Malvern, Sellersville and West Chester. Two were accused of sexual abuse that the board could not substantiate but were removed for violations of ministerial behavior standards. The other two never faced sexual abuse allegations but rather were determined to have acted in violation of church standards.
In a written statement, the archdiocese said it made counselors available for parishioners on Sunday. It said the five priests can appeal the decisions to the church hierarchy in Rome if they wish.
The Inquirer said two other priests were cleared to return to their parishes after the review board determined it could not substantiate allegations against them. Gavin said it was not clear if the two will return to their most recent parishes in Doylestown and Penndel.
The Associated Press was unable to reach any of the seven for comment.
Over the past two years, Chaput has returned eight other priests to the ministry and ruled nine were not fit for ministry. One priest died during an investigation and one case remains unresolved, although the archdiocese said law enforcement decided last month it would not press charges.
The archdiocese also announced Sunday that Father John P. Paul was placed on administrative leave after it recently received "multiple, new allegations" that he had sexually abused minors more than 30 years ago.
Paul, 67, had been the target of sexual abuse allegations late last year and earlier this year from his time as a seminarian, according to the archdiocese, but law enforcement declined to press charges after an investigation.
Paul resigned last month as pastor of Our Lady of Calvary Parish. A priest at the church said Sunday he did not know how to contact Paul, and no one answered a call to an online phone record linked to Paul. Paul served on the faculty on at least six Catholic high schools in Pennsylvania from 1974 to 2000.