Philadelphia's archbishop removes two priests accused of misconduct, restores four

REMOVED: The Rev. David Givey, left, and the Rev. John Bowe were taken from ministry.
REMOVED: The Rev. David Givey, left, and the Rev. John Bowe were taken from ministry.
Posted: July 07, 2012

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has removed two more priests accused of misconduct with minors and restored four to ministry.

The six are among the 26 Catholic priests whom the archdiocese placed on administrative leave last year following a Philadelphia grand jury investigation into clergy sex abuse and misconduct involving children.

In an announcement Friday, the archdiocese disclosed that a 16-month investigation by a team it had created found that the Rev. John Bowe, 64, and the Rev. David Givey, 68, had violated "standards of ministerial behavior and boundaries."

Those standards include behavior that falls short of sexual assault, such as inappropriate language, touching, and serving a youngster alcohol. In extreme cases, the behavior can be construed as "grooming" a child for sex.

Bowe served six years at St. Joseph's parish in Warrington, Bucks County, until his suspension last year. Givey retired in 2006 to the Diocese of Camden, where he said Sunday Masses at the Jersey Shore until his suspension. Neither could be reached for comment.

Those reinstated by Chaput are from suburban parishes: the Rev. Paul Castellani, 53, who most recently served at St. Philomena in Lansdowne, Delaware County; the Rev. Steven Harris, 57, who last served at St. Isaac Jogues in Wayne, Montgomery County; and the Rev. Leonard Peterson, 70, who last served at St. Maria Goretti in Hatfield, also in Montgomery County. All were accused of standards violations.

He also reinstated Msgr. John Close, 68, who last served as pastor of St. Katharine of Siena parish in Wayne. Close was accused of sexual abuse.

On May 4, Chaput announced he was removing five priests from active ministry and restoring three. Those cases were the first to be resolved of the 26.

Priests removed from ministry can either be stripped of their clerical status or obliged to live a life of penance at the archdiocese's home for retired priests. Those returned to ministry might serve in parishes or at other duties, such as teaching or chaplaincies.

As in the first round, the archdiocese on Friday provided no details about the allegations or the investigative team's findings, other than to say the accusations were "substantiated" or "unsubstantiated.

Gina Maisto Smith, who headed the investigators, known as the Multidisciplinary Team, did not return calls for comment.

In May, Smith said her team's recommendations to Chaput on likely guilt or innocence were based in large measure on whether members believed the priests or their accusers.

Before launching its own investigation, the archdiocese referred all accusations to the district attorneys in the counties where the misconduct was alleged. In addition to the multidisciplinary team's investigation, the Archdiocesan Review Board, an advisory panel to the archbishop, also reviewed each case.

Kristen Giovanni, a parishioner at St. Joseph's in Warrington who lives near the church, said Friday she "couldn't believe it" when Bowe was suspended last year.

"He was goofy with the kids, but in a good way," said Giovanni, who has two sons, ages 15 and 11, who attended religion classes while Bowe was in the parish. "But you never know."

Following Bowe's suspension, she asked her younger child whether anything had happened between him and the priest, and he said, 'Nothing,' " Giovanni said.

"Ever since all this, I question the Catholic Church," said Giovanni, a product of 12 years of Catholic school in Philadelphia.

The Rev. Joseph Bordanaro, St. Joseph's pastor, predicted there would be "a lot of different reactions to the news" of Bowe's removal. He said he was "saddened by it, but certainly concerned about all the victims of sexual abuse."

Msgr. Hans Brouwers, parochial administrator of St. Katharine of Siena, where Close had been pastor, said that "a number of parishioners have shared their great gratitude with me that it's been resolved and he's been declared suitable for ministry."

He said it was not clear where Close might serve when he returned to ministry.

The allegations against Close were the subject of a lengthy investigation by The Inquirer, which reported in June 2011 that two men told reporters Close sexually assaulted them repeatedly when they were teenagers.

His reinstatement prompted angry responses Friday from advocates for two of his accusers.

Lawyer Marci Hamilton, who represented an unnamed man who said Close had abused him in high school in the 1990s, called his vindication a "pale imitation of justice" and a "massive revictimization" of his accusers.

Her client, who lives in North Carolina, had "spent a month in therapy trying to find the courage to get on a plane" to Philadelphia and be interviewed by the archdiocese's investigators.

Robert Hoatson, a former priest and advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse, also expressed surprise at Close's reinstatement and said investigators evidently did not believe Close's other known accuser, Peter Schellinger.

Schellinger, 56, is serving a life sentence in a Delaware prison for the murder of his girlfriend, a crime he denies.

In an prison interview last year, Schellinger said Close began to abuse him in 1969, when he was a 13-year-old altar boy at Christ the King parish in Northeast Philadelphia.

"They never give you an explanation of their findings or any information," he said.

In an interview last year, Close vigorously challenged the accusations and likened them to the nails that crucified Jesus.

Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said it would not respond to Hamilton's and Hoatson's remarks.

Close's attorney, William H. Pugh V, said Chaput had told Close in person on Thursday that he was being restored to ministry and that he was "thrilled." "It was a very difficult 16 months," Pugh said.

Parishioners of St. Maria Goretti said they were delighted Peterson had been restored to ministry.

"Father Peterson has been very good for the parish," said Tim Trotter, a registered nurse who lives next to the school and whose three children attended classes there. "He is a very traditional priest, just a strong rock for the faith here in Hatfield. We have been expecting his return."

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Contact David O'Reilly at 610-313-8111 or doreilly@phillynews.com.

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Bill Reed, Tom Infield, Mari A. Schaefer, and Anthony M. Wood.

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