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Accountability

Chaput removes five Philadelphia priests from ministry

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Five of the 26 Philadelphia priests suspended in the wake of sexual abuse allegations revealed in last year's grand jury report will be removed from public ministry, Archbishop Charles Chaput announced Friday at a press conference.

Three of the 26 will be returned to ministry, while 17 cases are still pending in various stages of the investigation process, Chaput announced.

Chaput said the fate of the five priests determined "unfit for ministry" is still unknown. Each has the option to appeal the decision to the Vatican. If they decline or fail in their appeal, they could face laicization, life under supervision or a life of prayer and penance.

The type of conduct each was found guilty of -- sexual abuse or a violation of boundaries -- will likely dictate their fates. Of the five, only one, Fr. John Reardon, was accused of sexually abusing a minor, according to documents released by the archdiocese.

In Philadelphia, a church at the crossroads

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First Person

In the tumult that followed last year’s second grand jury report to allege a staggering history of sex abuse and cover-up in the Philadelphia archdiocese, the most striking response I heard from a reeling faithful came not from any cleric, staffer or abuse survivor, but from my mother.

Over a late-night cup of coffee as the revelations were still sinking in, all Mom could bring herself to say was, “It just feels like there’s been a death in the family.”

What she was implying seemed clear, but I wanted to be sure. “You mean your trust in the wider church, outside the parish?”

“That’s exactly what I meant,” she shot back.

If that was how Mom, a South Philly Italian named for a nun, now a lay minister and caretaker for my ailing grandmother -- in other words, a pillar of the faith -- felt at the start of a year whose turns since have read like a surrealist novel, one could forget about finding credibility anywhere else.

Kansas City abuse case decision expected to center on 'mandated reporter' statute

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first criminal case against a Catholic bishop in the decades-long clergy sex abuse scandal is expected to take a pivotal turn this week, as a county judge decides whether Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, can be tried on charges of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Central to the decision will be the question of whether Finn can be considered a "mandated reporter" in the case.

Sexual assault an intractable problem across the country

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The most recent issue of Notre Dame Magazine includes a long piece called “Anything but clear,” about sexual assault at the university, my alma mater. Yet its 3,936 words do not include these two: Lizzy Seeberg. She was the 19-year-old freshman at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., who committed suicide in the fall of 2010 after accusing a University of Notre Dame football player of sexual assaulting her.

“The number of sexual misconduct allegations in the 2010-11 academic year was consistent with past averages,” the alumni magazine story says near the top, “but a course of events drew widespread attention at Notre Dame and elsewhere.”

Reported sexual assault at Notre Dame campus leaves more questions than answers

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On her way back to St. Mary's College from the University of Notre Dame, just across the street in Notre Dame, Ind., freshman Lizzy Seeberg texted her therapist that she needed to talk ASAP. "Something bad happened," read her message, sent at 11:39 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2010. A sophomore in their dorm bolted from her study group after getting a similar message. When they talked a few minutes later, Lizzy was crying so hard she was having trouble breathing: "She looked really flushed and was breathing heavily and talking really fast; I couldn't understand her. I just heard her say 'boy,' 'Notre Dame,' 'football player.' She was crying and having the closest thing to a panic attack I've seen in my life. I told her to breathe and sit down and tell me everything."

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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