Priest facing suspension — 18 years later

Posted: March 13, 2012

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia plans to suspend a longtime parish priest almost two decades after church officials first learned that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The priest, Msgr. Richard T. Powers, is expected to be removed from his post as a senior priest at Epiphany of Our Lord in South Philadelphia and placed on administrative leave pending a review.

Powers, 76, who has served at parishes across the region since being ordained in 1963, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Messages left at the Epiphany rectory weren't returned. Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined to comment, saying to do so would violate a gag order imposed by a common pleas court judge.

Powers' suspension comes after his name emerged on a newly disclosed 1994 memo that listed 35 area priests suspected or accused of abusing children.

That memo had been prepared for Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua by Msgr. William J. Lynn, who as secretary for clergy monitored and investigated allegations of misconduct by archdiocesan priests.

Bevilacqua allegedly ordered the memo shredded, but a copy was discovered in a safe in the church's Center City archdiocesan offices in 2006 and turned over last month to Philadelphia prosecutors, according to court filings in a pending child endangerment case against Lynn.

The memo names Powers on a list of priests described as "guilty of sexual misconduct with minors." It said he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl in Caracas, Venezuela when he was with a group called the Society of St. James "more than five years" earlier.

The memo doesn't explain how church officials learned about the relationship, if Powers acknowledged it or if the girl filed a complaint.

It also doesn't say if archdiocesan administrators took any action at the time against the priest.

But Powers continued to live and work in area parishes, according to church directories, news clippings and other records.

He served as the pastor at two Philadelphia parishes, Incarnation of Our Lord and St. Veronica's, and later became pastor at St. Michael the Archangel in Levittown, Bucks County.

No other priests named in the 1994 memo remain in active ministry in the region.

Powers joins about two dozen archdiocesan priests placed on administrative leave last March while the archdiocese re-examines past allegations that they abused or acted inappropriately around minors.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has pledged to resolve most of those investigations by early May.


Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 215-854-4774, at jmartin@phillynews.com. Follow him @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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